Mental Health Monday: I’m taking control… Anxiety vs social media

I have an anxiety disorder. There it is, I said it. Phew! That wasn’t so hard I guess… but I’m someone who doesn’t openly discuss my anxiety issues, (being a bit of a proud and stubborn person), I still find it hard to admit that I have difficulties, which were on a daily basis. But here I am opening up about it and who better to share it with than you lovely mums?

I came off Facebook earlier this year and I’ve not looked back. When I realised that it was causing problems for my mental health, I decided it was best for me to finally ditch it.

Facebook has over the years been a great way for me, (like most people who use it), to stay in touch with old friends and new, but as my long-term relationship broke down, it was visually obvious just how much I had lost in the process. Seeing that old friends and family were deleting me out of their lives, after years together, took its toll on me and contributed towards my illness. Memories popping up each time I logged on. My anxiety was constantly telling me how lonely I had become. Some of my closest friends, I thought would be there through thick and thin, weren’t as supportive as I needed at that time, (and I recognise now that yes I was needy), and Facebook was reminding me of how much fun everyone was having, whilst I was falling into what I didn’t see at the time as depression. Of course when you’re in a better state of mind, you know that Facebook isn’t really ‘real life’, but as a result I was further pushing those people away and isolating myself as a way of coping, which I can see now.

Facebook again continued to serve as a reminder that as I reached my 30s and had become a mum, that I was no longer such a socialite. I love being a mum, so I accept that I can’t do as much; it’s part and parcel of being able to have a wonderful child, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped being me! Am I still fun to be around? My anxiety would chime in to torture and remind me that I’m lonely and instead of fun nights out, I’d be updating everyone on my excitement that I’d managed to get through the day without tearing my hair out.

The final push for me as a mum with anxiety was because I was noticing that family members were using Facebook as a way to ‘stay in touch’ with my daughter, by picture comments. Whilst it’s lovely to hear from people and to get their well wishes, (I don’t want to seem ungrateful), it means nothing to a baby/toddler, when she’s older and can read it’s a different story. I felt like people were knowing what my daughter was up to, without really knowing her and my anxiety again was causing me to have difficulty processing and dealing with this. Relatives, living nearby, were often going long periods of time without seeing my daughter. I knew I would much rather be able to see those people in person to build up relationships the old fashioned way, no matter how often that was. Coming off Facebook felt like the push I needed to arrange to see people more in person.

Coming off Facebook helped me to concentrate on my little circle of close friends and family and helped me to prioritise what is important to me and my family.

Leaving Facebook didn’t of course erase all of my mental health issues, but I’m using the social media that doesn’t trigger my anxieties instead which has helped me to feel more in control. Facebook is no longer there to remind me of the person I used to be; because I am finding that person again myself. Getting additional help from my GP has meant that my anxiety isn’t feeding me this false information, which sends me into a downward spiral where I am convinced that I am lonely. I am also far better at dealing with things that would have previously been a trigger.

I’m in a place now where I can stand up to the anxiety, (which I refer to as the A hole), and I can say I have my daughter’s and my partner’s love and that is more than enough! So with my little social circle of mums and treasured old friends, I feel very rich indeed. I haven’t felt this good about myself in a long time and I have more confidence than ever before to get out and meet new people. Each day feels like a new exciting opportunity now.

Thank you for reading about my journey.

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Competitive parenting! Nobody wins…

Have you ever had a moment where you looked at your baby, or your way of parenting, and just felt like your baby wasn’t smart enough or you were inadequate? We’ve all been there.

Aimee recently posted about social media being one of the ways in which we can feel so useless, and I have to agree! On social media, you only see the perfect side of parenting. You only see the milestones and the happiness, you don’t see the flukes, one-offs and huge amount of tears that are inevitable. This journey is incredibly emotional. Everyone cries at some point, you just don’t see it.

Nevertheless there’s this competitive side to parenting now – whose baby starts speaking/crawling/walking the quickest? Who are the best mum and dad? Whose house looks cleanest and tidiest in the background of all of those beautiful baby pics? Definitely not mine, I promise!

A picture of my baby girl, complete with laundry drying in the background

And it’s not just parents who are guilty of doing this – I once went to a baby group that I had been to a few weeks on the trot, but this time there were two NHS trainee Health Visitors observing the group. My daughter has always been raring to go and she was pretty quick to do everything, but I would never have dreamt of saying what one of those ladies said next:

“Does it make you worry when you see babies the same age as yours doing so much more?”

Yep, I’m serious. She said that to the woman sitting next to me.

If that had been me, I would have crumbled. A medical professional passing comment like that? They should know better, and thankfully, the mum next to me had the perfect answer. She said “No, all babies develop differently and take different amounts of time to do things”.

I wanted to give her a high five, I felt so pleased that she’d shut down that conversation and wouldn’t pay any attention to that competitive style of parenting. And that advice is so true! Although Olivia was always quick at getting on her feet and charging about, it took her a little while to start saying words other than mummy and daddy, and in the last few months, I can’t believe how much the little chatterbox’s speech has come on.

I got the idea from Harriet, who keeps a note on her phone of all the words Florence says and what order they came in, to write a letter to Olivia on my personal blog listing all of the words she can say. To my amazement, there are tons! It’s really quite fascinating to see them all written down like that, and if you had any doubts about your baby not progressing as quickly as others, I would urge you to try it.

Try writing down all the things baby can do or say, and when you see it there in black (or whatever other colour pen you use) and white, it will make you realise that they are progressing in their own little way. As the mum at the baby group said; they all take time to do things and they all develop differently.

No two babies are the same, so comparing them and their abilities is bad for everyone. You don’t need to feel insecure and you definitely don’t need to feel like everyone is in competition.

We are all in this parenting malarkey together.

Does social media make it harder to be good mothers?

Since the evolution of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., millions of parents have flocked to social media to show their family and friends pictures of their little ones, experiences they’ve had and problems they’ve encountered along the way. This may seem harmless, but picture this…

Mum one- Only posts on social media about the amazing things her child does, pictures of her child being perfectly behaved. Only shares experiences where she felt triumphant as a parent. Lives a seemingly perfect life with her perfect child. Meanwhile, her toddler has stressed her out all day, nothing has been done around her house and once her toddler has gone to bed, she gets to finally sit down to hot food for the first time today.

Mum two- Checks mum one’s social media frequently, amazed at how well she is coping with motherhood. She scrolls through her social media posts in awe, as her toddler pulls out the clothes she has folded three times already and screams at the top of their lungs for juice!

Both mothers are in the same position, yet mum two feels like she is failing. Why isn’t her child well behaved? Why doesn’t she have her life sorted?

The answer?

Because social media is the perfect platform for creating a better version of your reality. We can be anyone we want on social media in the hope that nobody will find out our flaws and mistakes. This is what is making a lot of mothers feel like failures. The constant reminder that the ‘Mum ones’ out there are doing better than we are.

‘Mummy groups’ do not help with this. I don’t know about the rest of you, but seeing photo after photo of kids, my daughter’s age, doing things she isn’t doing yet or seeing people show off how much they have got their kids for birthdays/Christmas, makes me feel inadequate as a parent. Why isn’t my daughter doing that? Must be something I’m doing. Why didn’t I spend that much on her for her birthday? I must be such a bad mother. Right?

NO!

Every child is different and every parenting journey is different. You can try to be like all the ‘Mum ones’ in the world, but chances are, it won’t work. You are the best mother you can be to your little one. Your parenting journey is exactly that. YOURS! Don’t let other people influence it or even change it completely.

So does social media make it harder to be good mothers? In some aspects yes. It definitely makes us question some of our abilities and choices, which then leads us to question our parenting in general. But in other aspects, no. Social media is a great place to socialise with other mothers, pick up tips on the harder parts of parenting e.g. breastfeeding, potty training etc. And social media mummies, 80% of the time, will be there to support you when you feel like the worst parent in the world.

So go ahead, scroll through social media, but stick to your choices! After all, mummy knows best!