One thing I hate about the way we’ve grown accustomed to living life is to measure it in milestones.
Birthdays, engagements, moving out, getting a job, getting married, having a baby…they’re all huge signposts in life that seem to be what most people strive for. However sometimes it becomes a little overwhelming and the small, more important milestones go by unnoticed by most people.
I wish there was a social media site for those with mental health problems where we could be brutally honest. Can you imagine the status updates?!
Got out of bed today. #winning
Didn’t die after making a phone call. #lifegoals
Managed to go the whole day without binging and purging. #gome
Wouldn’t it be great if we felt the freedom and courage to share such important milestones to everyone else? But it’s hard because to ‘everyone else’ getting out of bed or making a phone call or eating food and then not making themselves sick after it are things they do without even really thinking about it. They don’t see these things as milestones because they’re just normal, everyday occurrences for them.
Instead we have social media where people constantly aim to share their best lives…the best selfies, the coolest status updates about what they’re doing, pictures of an engagement ring, bragging about holidays booked, showing off their relationship, baby pictures…
And we all do it. I do it. I use my Facebook page to share my best life but it’s not a very accurate representation of my real life at all.
This time last year I was in a horrendous place. I couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings without panicking, I couldn’t leave my bedroom – even going to the toilet was enough to send me into a panic attack. I found it almost impossible to walk down the stairs and spend time downstairs in my house. I couldn’t have a bath; instead I’d have to quickly wash at the sink because it minimised the time I had to spend away from my safe place. I was going through an incredibly tough time.
When I compare that to now, I have achieved SO much. I get out of bed every day and get dressed. I can spend time anywhere in the house now without my anxiety become overwhelming. I have a bath every day. I spend time in the garden. Last Friday I went out to my nan and grandad’s house (over 20 minutes away) for dinner and I didn’t die. I’ve walked round the block a few times.
And in my world, in my small little Laura world, these things are fucking giant milestones. But the trouble is because they’re so small’ and insignificant to ‘most people’ in the world, they’re not seen as milestones at all. It’s all just me being lazy or still not having a job yet or not leaving the house.
Because I haven’t shared every single minute of my recovery on social media, people don’t know what I’ve managed to achieve in this past year. They don’t know that I’ve overcome suicidal thoughts, that I’ve gone from being incredibly frightened to be in the same room as someone else to being comfortable in a room of eight or nine people, that having an hour long bath routine is an achievement after previously being too scared to even put a foot in the bath.
‘Normal’ people take having a bath for granted or not realising that being able to walk out their front door without fear is something I long to be able to do every day. No one congratulates them on doing it because it’s just not a big thing for most people. Whereas marriage and babies and holidays are…they’re the things that people share about their lives on the internet.
My therapist used to call it the compare and despair mechanism. I’d compare myself to someone on social media and despair that my life wasn’t like theirs. She used to tell me that nothing you see on social media is trustworthy. You know that what everyone shares are the best moments…the things they want to show off or get likes for or get validation about to make themselves feel better.
And it’s true. And a lot of the time it makes me wish I could delete Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and just live a stripped back, less technology dependant life. Wouldn’t it be amazing to just go back to speaking to people on the phone or via text when you needed them? Sharing news face to face instead of seeing it pop up on your timeline and ‘liking’ it.
The main reasons I don’t delete my accounts are
1. FOMO (because god forbid something happening that I don’t get to like or react to because I don’t have social media)
2. Communication (how will I be able to interact with friends I only have online? How can I talk to people about books I’ve loved or things I’ve enjoyed?)
And I hate that I’ve become so reliant on social media!!! I hate that I spend my life comparing myself to others. That I seek validation through the number of likes I get on a status update or a tweet. Why have I conditioned myself to care so much about what other people think about me? (I mean, this is a whole other topic!) Sorry I love a tangent.
But, in all seriousness, we need to stop feeling like we are failing because we are not hitting the milestones other people seem to be reaching before us. We each have our own story to write, our own path to take and we all move along it at different times and in a way that suits us. Just because three people have got married on Facebook this week alone, doesn’t mean that you managing to get dressed today isn’t an incredible milestone in itself.
So whenever I see gorgeous people getting married, shiny sparkly rings, baby scan photos, sandy white beaches and skinny bodies encased in expensive bikinis I know that these people are reaching their own milestones. And that’s awesome for them. But I’m also reaching my milestones and I’m growing and learning and getting better every day and that’s what’s important. So what if people think that my life is boring and I’m lazy and whatever crap they want to think…I know the truth, the struggles that I’ve managed to face and overcome. And I’m proud of myself for that.
And you should be too. You should be proud of all the milestones you manage to hit regardless of how silly they might sound to other people.
And, just to make you feel better here’s the Facebook update I’d love to publish right now:
Today was a mix of good and bad. I sat in the sun for most of the day reading a book but I also was really scared the sun was making my head too heavy and that it was going to make me collapse and die because it was so hot. And then I spent a good while overthinking a lot of things and wondering if actually I’m a good person and then I looked at myself in the mirror and thought ‘oh god, I’m gross’. Then I had a bath and got into bed and was going to do lots of productive writing but I was too lethargic to do anything so I just lie naked like a beached whale in front of a fan wondering if I’m living my best life.