I came across this article today:
The Internet and Mental Health: It Helped & Hurt My Recovery
As many of you know, this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, because I think, despite media attention to the contrary, can be part of helping abuse survivors, and those with mental health issues, connect to others, and get solid information that they may not otherwise have access to.
But, there’s also a few dangers. Misinformation is a big one, but so is simply getting stuck. I think Megan describes some of what I mean by that in the article and her own conclusion:
Eventually, I started to realize that I was sabotaging myself with how I was using the Internet. Constantly reading and writing about mental illness was transforming from a healthy, necessary coping mechanism into a trigger. It was insanely hard, and I had many backslides, but I, eventually, pruned my social media to get rid of most of the mental illness accounts and started diversifying my Internet experience. I started seeking out mental health websites that focused on recovery and community instead of validation through the exhibition of pain, and I worked on validating myself instead of relying on others (though this is still a work in progress).
In my years of writing a blog, and being active on social media, I’ve absolutely seen this. There are some out there who get a lot of validation through their struggles, and talking about their struggles, which makes it hard to actually want to get better, and change. Let’s face it, I can get a ton of comments and social media likes when I write something intensely personal, and talk about how much I’m struggling. It’s simply natural for people to want to support and provide comfort to someone writing like that. When I share an article about mental health apps, or interesting study on the need for more mental health services, or talk about mental health in prison, and so on, not many people feel that same need to respond. Even though getting that information out there is important, it’s not going to get me much in the way of validation. That can be difficult to overcome. The validation feels nice, especially when I’m not getting it from myself or anywhere else.
The other thing that I applaud in Megan’s quote above is the idea of diversifying our social media use. I’m often asked why I have a number of different blogs and social media profiles, related to different topics, and my simple response is that if I didn’t have those, I wouldn’t have this. Yes, I have a Facebook Page, Twitter profile, an Instagram, and this website, totally dedicated to child abuse and mental health. But, if that was all I did online, there’s no way this website would be going into it’s 19th year of existence. I would have gotten completely burned out doing this. When I hop online, I have choices and I have other websites and profiles I can interact through for different interests. I can check out stuff about mental health, or take part in a Twitter chat for survivors, or I can share some photos I’ve taken and learn about photography, or I can check out what’s new in the Legal Technology space, or just chat with other Islander fans about the team on Twitter. It’s the diversity of interests that keeps me from falling too far down the abuse and mental health rabbit hole.
Let me be honest for a minute. While acknowledging the importance of survivors stories, and the pain of those dealing with depression and other issues, I must also acknowledge my own limits. If that was what I spent my time reading every single time I logged into the internet, I’d start avoiding it. Reading those stories, seeing their pain, is hard on me. It’s hard on anyone. If I’m going to have an active online presence around those topics, I’m also going to need some boundaries around how much time I spend there. I’m going to need to just go do some fun stuff online to balance that out. Those other interests are part of me, they make up who I am, and they provide an identify that isn’t tied to my abuse. That’s how I maintain my own sense of identity and validation, by being more than a survivor.
Simply put, it’s that diversity of things that make up “Mike” that provides the health and balance that keeps me moving forward. As important as I think the online survivor community is, I can’t allow that to get in the way of my own healing.