What My Instagram Didn't Show About My Struggles With Mental Illness
We live in a time when people tend to think they know almost everything about people. Through constant Snapchats, Instagram posts, tweets, etc., individuals are able to portray themselves however they please. I have fallen victim to this social media trap of portrayal. When posting a selfie, I make sure it’s the best of the best. It has to be the right angle, I ask my friends for approval, think of a suitable caption and then boom. Not that the photo is edited or fake, but I came to the realization that I only post “good” or what I deem as “good” photos of myself.
I am in my first year of university at Ryerson, studying professional communications. When I look at my Instagram, I see an abundance of fun times, posed up pictures, big smiles, bright colors and everything in between. I tried to look at my Instagram as if I didn’t know myself and I thought, “Wow, this girl looks so put together, fun and artsy.” However, I am so far from put together. My first year at university has been an absolute mess. Although I can be fun, upbeat and artsy, I spend a lot of my days struggling to get out of my bed. I felt like I was hiding this whole other part of me from my online presence. I needed to acknowledge my mental illness to free myself and to help free others from the stigma and shame associated with mental illness.
I posted this photo of myself on Instagram with the caption:
“Amidst all the fun and amazing memories first year has brought me, there has been an equal amount of pain to go with it. I took this photo after staying up all night to finish an assignment. At this time in my life, I was barely eating, I was experiencing multiple panic attacks a day, and I was convinced I wasn’t capable of being in university because I couldn’t function like everyone else. I became so absorbed in my sadness, I felt so lifeless. I didn’t want to be here. On this day, I decided I was so down I couldn’t deal with it on my own and I’m grateful for that decision. And no, I’m not “cured.” I still deal with anxiety, panic attacks and depression, I still stay in bed all day some days, and I still can’t function like everyone else. However, I know I have support. I know I’m not alone. Whenever I need to call someone, I have a list of people who have my back and honestly, I’m so appreciative for all the love from my friends and family. I’m posting this for all the people who have been struggling, who still struggle but continue to try because that’s all you can ever do. Try and keep trying. It’s nothing to be ashamed of — at least I’m not ashamed. It’s just a part of who I am and I thought y’all should know I’m not as put together as I appear on Insta (I don’t think anyone is). It’s really important especially in a society that glorifies perfection, to understand that being a work in progress isn’t anything less. #spreadlove”
As soon as I posted the picture, my heart immediately started racing and I became jittery. I was so nervous and I felt so vulnerable because I wasn’t sure how people would react. After a minute, I caught my breath and realized a weight was lifted off my shoulder. Suddenly, I didn’t even care how people would react. I felt free. Several people commented and/or messaged me on the side telling me how much my post inspired them. A lot of people said they had no idea I was going through all of this and that I hid it so well.
So, no more hiding. My mental illness makes me who I am. Although it makes little tasks much more difficult and makes some days seem impossible to survive, my mental illness makes me strong. I will continue to try, I will continue to battle, for I am invincible. Please don’t feel obligated to post “perfect” pictures all the time. I encourage you to use your social media as your genuine self: use it to reflect, and use it to grow. (And of course use it to post those fire selfies!)
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Photo via contributor.