When my daughter was born in 2016 I was diagnosed with postnatal depression, and I realised I had actually been battling with my mental health most of my life. It was a tough year, and I fought back with so many different strategies. A change of diet, counselling, antidepressants, becoming a practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming, and personal research.
I got better.
But in the first week of 2018, the depression came back, stronger than ever. It was terrifying. I don’t know where it came from, or why, but it blindsided me and I was in a very scary place for nearly a fortnight. Maybe it was the change of habits and routine over Christmas, or indulging too much in food and alcohol, or the New Year reflection where decided I thought I wasn’t as close to my goals as I hoped.
All I know is, it came back.
Just like last time, I threw every possible solution I could at it. As though I was in a role playing game when you come up against a monster that you are just not experienced enough for. You throw every spell, scroll, weapon, potion, and companion you have at it.
Well, depression is the mother of all end of level bosses, and it had brought its good friend anxiety along for the ride.
So I went to war.
I called the doctor and got on antidepressants again. I started using Bach Flower Remedies, which a friend recommended and swore by. I cut out all coffee and alcohol, and I came off social media.
Not totally, but I cut way back, and my phone would no longer be always on me.
As a lecturer, not only do I need to teach social media, but I also have to keep my finger on the pulse of what is happening. Alongside teaching I also run a martial arts business, which relies on facebook for its advertising, and my two year old daughter will always stop crying if I show her the Snapchat dog filter. (She is also obsessed with a saved Snapchat story of when I talk about my vasectomy, I still have no idea why she laughs so much at that one)
To start with I felt better. I felt free. Simon Sinek talks about the dopamine addiction that social media offers and the phantom “vibration” your leg will feel, as you seek that next hit of a notification, a like, a tag, or a message.
It felt good.
But I was treading water. Nothing was happening. I was missing the news and conversation of Twitter, the self development and networking opportunities of Linkedin, and the personal journaling of Snapchat.
Snapchat was the key factor for me.
With Snapchat I would have thoughts throughout the day, and form them in to a mini rants or opinion pieces. Most were actually about mental health. Sure I had my own battles, but as someone that teaches 16–19 year olds, I have also seen the massive increase in depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self harm, suicidal thoughts and more.
Thats why I became a youth mental health first aider. Who knew one of the key tasks working in education is to help teenagers deal with panic attacks?
So I would talk about mental health, as a lot of users of Snapchat are teenagers.
But I stopped that. As I had come off social media. And I felt worse.
Alcoholics Anonymous have twelve steps, and the last one is to sponsor another person battling alcoholism. To help them with their battle. Because that helps you. If you do not make step twelve, you are far more likely to “fall off the wagon”. We care about others, often more than ourselves. And by coming off of social media, I was no longer helping anyone.
I was not thinking about strategies to combat mental illness, or forming them in to coherent messages. I was, in some ways, alone. I was disconnected from my tribe.
I could feel it too. I wanted to go back. But the habit was broken. It had taken me courage to go on Snapchat to start with, and it lead to being comfortable going live on any platform. But now I was out of practice. How do you even do it, or why?
I had to start slowly. I Snapchatted my martial arts clients training, and then my daughter being adorable. And then I showed my face, and spoke.
I spoke about mental health, about how my depression came back, how I was battling it, and encouraged others fighting the same battle to keep going.
And I got better.