Okay, so I will start off this post by saying I am 42. I think that is important because I am about to talk about FB and my teen daughter always tells me “only older people use FB”, so I guess I am old (insert my chuckle here). I always tell my daughter I am old and wise, hence the reason I have some white hairs in amongst my dark strands. Those are signs of wisdom, right?
Social media is a wonderful source, but also can be a place of pain and self-doubt. For instance, I have a lot of running friends and they will post these beautiful pictures, sometimes filtered, of their perfect bodies running along a gorgeous trail or road. Now they may not think their bodies are gorgeous, but I look at them and think “man, I wish I looked like that”. Yep, I will be the first to honestly admit I have never been a fan of my body and how it looks. I have always wanted to be tall and slim. This does not mean I do not love myself, just means there are parts I do not love. So, I see these beautiful, perfect pictures and sometimes I feel bad. I am human. Social media can sometimes make you look at yourself or your life and think “why not me”. In fact, some recent studies have shown that social media could have a correlation to higher depression rates. When we always see perfect lives, it is bound to happen. We are all human after all.
I have a habit of liking to keep my FB page very honest and open. I figure real life me is not perfect, so I am not going to make social media me look perfect. Recently, I posed the question to my FB friends “how are you”. In my post, I stated if you are not fine then say you are not fine, it is okay to do that. You see for years when I walked with PTSD and depression I was a master at saying, “I am fine” when people asked. For those who are intuitive or understand mental illness though, they know the eyes are the view into the soul. Those who knew me well or my counsellors would say to me, “no you are not fine”. It was in my eyes. Even with my years, 19 of them, in healthcare I have grown to understand this look and know it because I have seen it in many a patient’s eyes. As I started to let go of the grasp PTSD and depression had on me I started to understand how important it was to be honest about how I was feeling. So, I started saying “I am not fine” or “I am not okay”. Saying this throws people off a lot. Most people are waiting for the “I’m fine” to come out and then they can go about their day. When you say you are not fine people either looked shocked or they say “Thank you for saying that. You know I am not okay either. Can we talk.”. When I posed the question to FB I did not know how it would go. I posted my story. That I was not fine. That being a new nurse practitioner is stressful and I just want to get to a point where I feel some confidence. Then juggling that with family and school is even more tough. Old me would put in about 50 miles of running a week to get through the “not fine”, but new nurse practitioner me is lucky to get 20 miles a week. I am feeling this loss of my calm time and meditative time.
I thought perhaps no one would answer my post. However, I was wrong. I saw the most beautiful event take place. People started answering. Some said they were great and shared their stories. Others stated they were not okay and told their stories. Then I saw people reaching out to those who were “not okay”, providing supportive thoughts, and letting them know they were not alone. It was amazing. It was open, honest dialogue where people could “speak” and no judgment was passed. I suddenly felt like a big hug was surrounding me. The truth is if we went out on the street right now and asked people “are you okay”, I can guarantee about every third person would say “no”. We are all struggling with something, maybe not at the same time, but we have been there. By being honest and saying we are not “okay” we can create an environment where that is acceptable. Right now, we live in the “happy” society, where not being okay is bad. We need to change that. If we could change this mentality I wonder if we could get rid of some of the stigma surrounding mental health disorders? Emotions are real. Just because we cannot see them, does not mean they do not exist. So, I challenge you all. Start saying “I am not okay” if you really are not. Go to your social media and ask the question “How are you” and encourage people to be honest. Create an emotion embracing environment, one where all emotions are welcome. I am not okay. Are you?