Grief, Social Media & Mental Health: A candid confession of the ongoing struggle

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Okay, so, here's the deal: I have been struggling HARD over the past couple of months and today I'd like to candidly share what has been going on with my mental health vis-à-vis grief and social media.

If you follow me on social media you may have noticed my sudden "silence". Although this isn't the first time that I've just quit social media cold turkey, this time around my mental health took such a hard blow that it was impossible for me to address it alone. So after 18 years of orphanhood, I finally dived headfirst into the vast unknown ocean of therapy (that is, unknown to me). I'll tell you about that in a second. Let me first rewind and try to explain how it all started. This may be a little long but hang tight ‘till the end...

After my parents died a lot changed about me. Aside from the obvious, I became quite the introvert and the world and its people terrified me. Growing up, I gradually lost trust in everyone around me, with the exception of a handful of people (around whom I still sort of walked on eggshells). I felt like an alien; like I did not belong. All these emotions of rejection, marginalisation and distrust bled into my twenties. Rather than subsiding, they just became far more intense. Now here I am, approaching thirty's door and feeling more like an outsider than I ever did. Although my heart does not want it, isolation is looking more and more attractive to my mind and complex depression is becoming a constant rather than an occasional disturbance. This is affecting not only my relationship with the world, but it is also deeply affecting my relationship with myself. I am overwhelmed with a multitude of emotions, sometimes contradicting each other, and I have identified an unfortunate trigger: social media.

I am sure that we’ve all heard or read about the negative effects social media can have on one’s mental health. I am not here to remind you of all of that. What I want to speak about is how social media has impacted my grief journey and why I have been struggling so much, especially over the past couple of years and more importantly over the past few months.

I started writing about grief from day one; literally from the day my parents died in a car accident. On my first night as an orphan, I wrote a letter to my parents in my journal; the pink journal my mother had bought for me about a year before she and my father died. From that moment on, at ten years old, I knew just how therapeutic writing about my grief was for me. It’s been eighteen years and I have never stopped since. About 9 years ago I began blogging and sharing my thoughts and emotions with the world. I do not know what exactly triggered me to go from exclusively writing for myself to sharing parts of myself with strangers, but it felt good. It felt good to connect with people who had similar experiences. It felt good to know that my efforts to improve my life were inspiring others. It felt good to know that I was not alone. For the first time in years, I felt like less of an alien; I felt like I did belong to the world after all. However, nothing prepared me for the rollercoaster of a journey that I was about to embark on. I had no clue just how taxing it was all going to be.

Since the start of my blogging career back in 2012, I have quit and left social media on numerous occasions; more than I can remember. Each time I quit, it was after feeling overwhelmed by depression and loneliness; the latter being utterly confusing because I found myself feeling lonely in the midst of the place where I had found a sense of belonging. This year alone I have deleted my social media apps from my phone three times and we’ve only just entered August. However, there is something very different about everything this year. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, my mental health has taken the toughest blows and I found myself near to death, both emotionally and physically.

See, each time I have returned to social media after quitting, it has provided a short-lived feeling of belonging; but after a while, the feelings of fear, marginalisation and alienation resurface, each time more intense than the last. Being an introvert on social media is already daunting and this has been exacerbated by the fact that I have been trying to live my life without dealing with underlying issues that have haunted me since I lost my parents. No matter how inspiring and warm the online grief community is, I still feel like an outsider and I still cannot bring myself to feeling like I truly belong. Losing my parents at such a young age left me feeling defenceless, and social media just reminds me of how big the world is and just how fragile my heart can be. This brings me to a dilemma I have been facing for years: Writing (and subsequent sharing) plays an important and positive role in my grief journey, yet social media (which the world says is an important tool for bloggers and writers) is slowly but surely destroying me.

Over the past 3 years and more so the past couple of months I have seen my mental health deteriorate and affect me and my loved ones tremendously. Although social media isn’t the root cause, it is certainly a powerful trigger that I cannot continue ignoring. Shannon Alder said that “There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.” I have chosen to write a completely new book, one where for once I am truly the main character. I have chosen to prioritise my mental health above all because I deserve it and the people I love deserve it too. What does this mean for Orphan Writes? It doesn’t mean that I will end my writing career. It simply means that I am taking steps to preserve my sanity and treating the damage that has already been caused. Social media will evolve and may even die altogether, but I’ll never stop writing because it is a part of who I am. While I continue writing, which soothes my soul, I am working on myself. I have started seeing a therapist, I am exploring my spirituality, and I am taking care of my body. And as for social media, well, I won’t quit just yet. Concretely, as I take the time to focus on myself, I have found tools online which will enable me to continue sharing my content on social media without having to log on to Instagram and Facebook (YAY technology!). There are many grief bloggers and podcasters that I want to keep in touch with, so rather than having to find out about their work on social media I have gone ahead and subscribed to their websites and podcasts. I don’t know if all these measures will help, but I am willing to try until I find something that will stick. The bottom line is that my mental health has to remain a priority. I now understand that it is at the centre of everything.

So, you’ve reached the end of this candid confession. I can’t thank you enough. As always, I truly hope that by sharing a piece of me with you I have inspired and helped you in one way or the other. Dealing with grief is difficult; and like I have said before there is no real destination on this journey. It is all about getting to know yourself and finding positive ways to live your “new normal” without your loved one being physically by your side. It has taken me 18 years to realise the extent to which losing my parents affected me and still affects me mentally, emotionally and even physically. I am grateful that I am in a place where I am fully conscious of this and I am actively working towards bettering my existence as an individual, a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend… To conclude, I invite you to subscribe to my blog so that you never miss a post. As I’ve done for nearly a decade, I will continue sharing my grief journey. My grief blog is about my thoughts, raw emotions and real struggles and triumphs of life as an orphan. Sometimes there are tears, and at times there are laughs. They are all a part of my journey, a journey I'd like to share with you, with truth and love. ​By sharing a bit about me, I hope to inspire and motivate you - to pour a bit of positivity into your life.

Stay positive and keep shining!

Peace & love, always…