Friendship, social media & mental health…

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There are lots of people who say that friendship can’t be built over social media. I really beg to differ. I began blogging this time 9 years ago. I had just returned back from Australia, started going to a new church in a part of my home city that had looked down on me as a teen and was getting over a pretty catastrophic relationship. Oh yeah, and I was about to discover that I couldn’t do the same job I’d spent the last year doing without going back to university.

However, back then I was barely 23 and had time on my side. As much as there was a huge amount change and upheaval that year I really had very few doubts that I was exactly where I was meant to be.

On the other hand, I was questioning a lot of things and trying to work out what I was meant to be doing.

That’s where blogging came in.

To be honest blogging was just a cathartic way of processing my thoughts. I’m an extrovert by nature so I’m always thinking out loud (just ask my friends, colleagues and family…). I never expected to find community in it. But I did.

People started to follow my day to day life (which boggles my mind, it’s not like I’m interesting) but also as I began to share some of my life story and on days where I was questioning my life and faith, I discovered that others were out there saying ‘Me too! I thought I was the only one‘.

The community has shrunk somewhat, as a lot of those original friends have stopped blogging and I really miss their writing. Thankfully there are a core few that I’ve stayed in touch with through twitter and facebook, and several that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person. Three of them even travelled to Edinburgh to stay with me because they were determined that I was to celebrate turning 30.

The two years since – well they’ve kinda sucked. Every time I start to think things are getting better, it feels like the universe says “HA! That’s what you think!”. It’s made me feel like a failure. I feel incredibly lonely as gradually a whole chunk of my close friends have moved away, and money has been so tight and public transport so expensive (another shout out to the government for privatising rail services…). Social media is the worst for letting you know how much fun your friends are having without you. Or any time they are in town and didn’t let you know so you could spend some time with them.

However, back to the benefits of social media. Two of these ‘online friends’ have over the years shared with me when I have shared with them (and the rest of cyberspace) about things relating to mental health, crisis, grief and loss. One of them has started sending me messages letting me know how she is thinking of me and praying for me. Another sent me a card this weekend letting me know she was there for me if I wanted her to be. I haven’t been able to properly respond in the way I want to, because right now every day is tough and talking about it makes me start crying. When people ask me ‘How’s university going?‘ or ‘So what are you going to do about [insert some kind of big life thing like employment or landlord responsibilities]?’ I can literally feel my blood pressure shoot up and want to scream, yell, burst into tears and feel like I’m going to throw up. So many nights I go to bed with a plan of how I’m going conquer the world regardless of all the crap thrown at me and what a failure everyone may think I am. And so many mornings I wake up and just can’t get out of bed or the house because the thought of facing it alone is just so depressing.

So, all a bit more than any of you needed to know. today I planned on sending an assertive e-mail, making a chart for Guides, reading some books, writing an essay, going into town to run an errand and all I actually accomplished was putting some clothes in the washing machine and  hanging them up to dry.

I share that just in case you’re also looking at the facebooks, instagrams and twitter of all the people who went on dates, family parties, sat in cafes, went on trips, ran marathons and feeling even worse about yourself as a result. Maybe you didn’t even manage to remember to get the clothes out of the washing machine (something that happens to me often, I’ve also found myself going to get loads of laundry out the machine that I’d already hung up because I have no memory of doing it). Well. Take heart sister/brother..

…You are not the only one.

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