Day 6. One among many.
I’d originally had thoughts of writing this reflection on another topic entirely, but a comment on Facebook in which I was tagged by a friend was speaking on a topic that, upon reading it, took me like a mallet striking a gong in the dark: resonating unexpectedly, powerfully, and suddenly. Consequently, I found myself needing to write about this, and I’ll leave the other topic for another day (which I’m not unhappy about, in fairness, as it was going to be a topic which still distresses and confuses me when I talk about it; but that’ll come tomorrow, so enough). The topic I’ve decided to reflect on tonight is that of connectedness, both within the community of those who suffer from mental illness, and between sufferers and well people. You see, this comment on Facebook was that of a new friend I met through my best friend’s birthday party on the weekend, and part of the wonderfully emotive, complimentary, deep post she wrote was a brief defence of the value of Facebook as a means for interpersonal connectivity. This was a very small part of the post, truth be told, but it was the mallet-strike out of the darkness that set my thoughts resonating. And this is what I said in response:
Without Facebook, I would have long since mentally disintegrated by now. For those who suffer with depression and anxiety, as I do, Facebook allow us to continue to see how our friends’ lives are progressing when we don’t have the energy to interact, to interact by comments and sharing posts when we do have small amounts of energy to spend, to exchange messages and conversations and plan get-togethers when we have a greater energy reserve. And while I don’t really use Facebook to meet new people so much as I do to keep in contact (or to try, at least) with people I know already, it’s almost a lifeline of sorts for maintaining that contact.
The listlessness and lethargy that come along with depression do make keeping in touch with loved ones difficult indeed, and I’ve spoken to both my psychologist and my psychiatrist about the challenge posed by the constant tension between my conscious mind on the one hand – my intellectual desire to be in contact with people, to let them know how I am, to ask them how they are, to find out all that life is delivering to them and celebrate or enquire or empathise or offer assistance in those ways I can – and my emotional subcurrent on the other, the part that’s affected by and stunted by the depression, that steals away my motivation the moment I sit down to write a message or email to a friend. But I agree absolutely with this friend in the extraordinary utility of Facebook as a tool for the mentally ill person to maintain a lifeline to the outside world: to friends and family who may be widely dispersed even while incredibly dear, and also to those experiencing very similar challenges with their illnesses. It allows me to remain in contact with people as much as I’m able, to seek advice when I need it, to find a digital shoulder to cry on if it should become necessary. And if all I’m capable of on a given day is a sentence or two in a personal message, or a brief comment to a lolcat someone’s posted, so be it. (Whatever deities may exist, may they all bless the lolcat. There are days when funny image macros and memes can winch me out of the quicksand, and it can buoy me no end to know that someone I love wishes to bring cheer to their own friends by passing forward something they found pleasing. Even if it’s nothing more than a kitten in a beer glass, or a selfie with a quokka.) In any case, being part of a network of digitally active people on Facebook is a wonderful way of remembering – or being reminded, on those days when you struggle to keep hold of the thought yourself – that others are around you, that you are not alone, that people care for you, that people miss you, that people want you in their lives, that you bathe in the love of others. And to have all of that is to possess and be enriched by an immeasurable and infinitely beautiful gift; it’s just that sometimes, you need a bit of a poke to be reminded of it.