The Good, The Bad, And The Invisible Barrier
By Diana Hickman, 2019
To me, I feel like mental healh was not talked about the same way it is now, than it was when I was a teenager. When I was 15 I had seen multiple friends frequent the youth phsyc ward at the general hospital in one of the Canadian cities I called home. It was a common understanding that if you were truthful about your mental health with the guidence councellor at school, then you would likely be shipped off to the hospital and ‘punished'(in our eyes at the time) for severe depression or suicidal thoughts.
By this age, I was too busy spending time doing things I shouldnt have been doing to be spending time at home on the internet, for which I’m thankful for. I don’t know if I’d be able to handle the overwhelming level of bullying and harrassment online that was so commonplace and unchecked at the time.
From the age of about 19 and onwards, I’ve been battling chronic illness including very painful, physical disabilities, menstrual problems, arthritis, mood swings, the list goes on…
As a result of chronic pain and health problems, depression was a natural side effect that grew in my life. It comes and goes in waves, sometimes a downright storm-nearly capsising all my confidence every time. As I got older, depression’s obscessive friend anxiety reared it’s imposing, ugly head into my life. I don’t think I even knew what living with anxiety meant when I was younger. It is so much more than ‘worrying’. All encompassing, self concious, full of doubt, shame.
As I started to face daily challenges managing my adverse health symptoms, I started digging on the internet for answers. After sifting through all the web MD anxiety flaring, hypocondriach paradise, I started to actually find useful information.
Other women going through similar situations. I was floored to learn how common it is to have adverse menstrual problems, pain, and mood alterations and to have little to no support from medical professionals.
It’s bittersweet. I discovered a whole other world of support, information, studies, experiences. To this day, I’ve felt more support from women online going through similar problems, than any face to face pain support group has ever given me.
Over the last half decade or so, the push to ‘love yourself’ has become more prevelent on the internet. And I think it’s great! However, all the bubble baths, positive self talk and ‘treating yo-self’ can only do so much for self love and acceptance, not to mention mental health support. I am greatful to have emotional support online from women in very similar shoes. I am thankful to be able to find resources, medical studies and reviews about health issues online. But I also know that not everything can be treated by yourself. Sometimes medical professional intervention is required for coping and healing. It’s easy to hide behind funny videos, memes, and social media in gerneral. The stigma is still there.
It’s very difficult to admit you need help, and even more difficult to get that help (especially if you’re female.)
When social media is all about showing and sharing only what you want-it’s so hard to confront your actual problems. It becomes more and more normal to hide what you’re actually feeling.
And why shouldn’t we filter our feeds to display the positive aspects of our lives? When thats what we want to be.
I also find my self hiding deeper behind social media.
Most of my friends connect with me via facebook messenger. Which I have zero issue with, the mobile phone number is no longer a necessity. I’ll still go on facebook often, sharing memes and videos and articles and reading them, commenting on things. But I sometimes struggle to open private messages from even the closest of friends. When Iv’e opened it, a little tiny bubble in the corner signifies that I’ve seen their message. I hesitate. It’s like answering a ringing phone, my anxiety peaks. What if I can’t answer them right away and they think I’m ignoring them? As soon as I open this I feel like I have only so much time before I have to reply… A whole other level of stress that I didn’t expect to be apart of my life in the digital age.
As stigma continues and societal acceptance keeps taking inching steps forward, I am going to keep attempting to break down walls of silence on the matter of mental health. Though getting help is as difficult as ever, and side effects of the internet are only getting more severe, it’s comforting to know that a whole world of information is at our fingertips. We can reach out.