Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Always, a work in progress.

I'm just going to come right out and say it: I haven't been having a great year mentally. 
At the beginning of the year, a friendship that meant a lot to me was no longer; The whole thing hit me really hard to be honest. 
I'm not sure whether having depression makes me more sensitive to this sort of thing, or whether that's just who I am anyway, but it seems to have been the spark that ignited a relapse in my depression and anxiety. I'm not saying anyone is to blame, just that this is where I'm at because of it. 
Either way, the confidence that was a thing of real beauty for me last year has been gone and my anxiety has been worse than maybe ever in my life. 
It's been an up and down few months, feeling terrible, then better, then back to terrible. 
Anyway, this isn't a post to dwell on what a shit year I've been having, but to share what I've been doing to try and feel better.

I came to a realisation the other day that might just have been the most significant of my life.

It began with finally experimenting my theory that there would be improvements to my mental health/life in general, if I took a significant break from social media. I've always had my concerns about social media. (I've written about some of them on here before.) I hate that it's all primarily about pretending. Proving that your life is perfect. That you are having all the fun in the world, while everyone else sits miserably at home looking on, when in fact we're all playing the same game with each other. I hate that I take part in the game simply because I feel like I'd be missing out if I wasn't. 
I hate how preoccupied social media makes us all. We're too busy checking what people we barely care about are doing, and forgetting to enjoy the time with the people we do care about, who are physically there in front of us. It's insane when you think about it. My every thought turns into a tweet, my every moment turns into something to photograph for fucking Instagram. We're so busy documenting the moment that we forget to live in it. That makes me very sad.
Not to mention that there's just too much information being fed to me on a daily basis. I'm consumed by it, obsessively checking for updates and going to bed with my head buzzing. For what? It's too stressful. 
And there's too much to prove all the time. Look how smart/funny/pretty I am. Look how many friends I have. Look how many places I've been to. It's like building my online persona is taking up more time than being a real person. What is that about? How is that making me happy? It isn't. It's all fake. I need to be free from it. I don't know if I just need a break or whether I'll stay away from it forever but if it's contributing to my anxiety then it's my responsibility to try and let it go.
The irony is that I'll probably share this on Facebook and Twitter, because I know that's the easiest way to reach people, but I think I have to actively try and get away from it the next day.
And yes, I have considered whether sharing it is hypocritical of the message of this whole post and I don't know what the answer is; all I know is that I've enjoyed writing, it has been cathartic, and that I feel maybe other people could benefit from reading it. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't think ONLY negative things come from social media. I actually feel like I owe a lot to Twitter for teaching me so much about feminism, body positivity, gender, racism, equality etc and giving me a lot of confidence in myself. A great number of Twitter and Instagram users have been inspiring to me. Getting new perspectives from people all over the world has helped me to see the world and my self in different ways. The problem has been in the unhealthy and obsessive way that I've been approaching it lately, and this pressure I've felt to upkeep a persona.

With nothing to update, and a ridiculous amount of time to think, I went out for a long walk and that's when the realisation really hit me: it's not just social media, I upkeep a certain persona in real life too. I had to dig deep into my own head and I realised that the root of my thoughts and worries are usually about trying to have people see me in a particular way. I am always worried about how people are viewing me, that it's consistent with the person I want them to see me as. It's not as if that person is far from who I am exactly, but I am more preoccupied with trying to always act like this person, hoping that I'm coming across properly, than just being this person. (I'm sorry if this makes no sense.) In the simplest terms, so much of my behaviour seems to start off from wanting to prove to people that I'm smart/kind/funny/pretty. 
I didn't know I did this. I wasn't actively aware that I spent so much time trying to prove that I was those things. I was aware that actually deep down my self-esteem is pretty low, but I hadn't realised the extent to which it was affecting my thoughts and therefore my behaviour. 
I am living a lot more of my life for other people than I ever realised. 

The saddest, but in a way the best thing, for me to realise was that no amount of validation from others about me being those things has ever made me believe it any more. Truthfully, I already believe that I am those things for the most part, and isn't that a beautiful thing? It's baffling that I've spent so much time trying to get others to confirm it, when I've already known.
The day that it hit me, was the day I decided that I could change, that I could set myself free of so much anxiety if I put the work in. I could change my behaviour and see how it changes my thoughts. I am literally stopping a habit of a lifetime. Basically I ask myself "Is this for you or is this for other people?" and I'm amazed at how much of my day is different when I do that. 
I've realised more deeply than ever that no matter how you want to affect the view people have of you, you can only do so much.  It's a fact that they will see you however they want to, and that isn't your problem. 
I always thought I had a good handle on that concept, but it turns out I had even more to learn. 

I feel like I finally have the courage to try being who I am. I'm actively trying not to let the fear of other people's judgment stop me from being who I actually am, even if elements of that person don't seemingly fit in with or please everyone else. It's not about not caring what people think, but about not letting it keep you from being true to yourself. I know it's the most cliched thing ever, but your relationship with yourself is the most valuable one you'll ever have. The more I learn to be that person, and to accept that person, the happier I am. 
It's a work in progress, but I suppose we are all, always, a work in progress. 

Even just having been away from social media for 5 days has given me some lovely peaceful days, occupying myself with enjoying the moment and nothing else. When I was out walking, I felt the feeling that so often shrinks with depression, which was real optimism for the future. I got a wee butterfly of optimism in my belly and I know that that's a sign I'm feeling better. I hope I can keep it. 

I feel like this could be the truest thing I've ever written. I've actively stopped myself from editing in the way that I normally would and just let the words come out as they are. I try too hard to sound clever or not like a self-indulgent wanker normally, when I suppose I should just be a self-indulgent wanker, if that's what I am. (There's nothing like the word wanker to ruin the tone eh?)

Thank you, as always, for reading. I doubt I would read this far into anything unless it was by J.K Rowling.

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