Philosophy

Ascending the Mountain

I have a friend who taught a yoga nidra class that I attended. One of my favorite scripts that she read was a visualization of climbing a mountain. It began at the base of the mountain and described our ascent as we traveled with a guide.

In the beginning, the guide that I visualized was a generic-looking outdoorsman with a dark beard and a camera. As I approached the summit in my mind, however, I realized that my guide had become an older, stronger version of myself.

When I told my friend about this after class, she said, “Bethany, don’t you realize that you are supposed to be the guide by the end of the meditation?”

Last summer, during the shutdown, I knew that I was going through a difficult but transformational time in my journey. As I came through it and learned and grew, I was able to see how the journey up the mountain was a perfect metaphor for my own path. And I saw that while many people walked with me on the journey, there were definitely four people who filled the role of “guide.”

This is my story of their influence on my climb.

2012: The Path at the Base of the Mountain

Guide: Kyle

Let’s begin this story in the fall of 2012. I had just returned from a 93-day sailing trip on the Great Lakes, and I felt a yearning for something more than life in my neighborhood in Harrison, Michigan could offer. I felt more and more out of synch with my teaching job that I had once loved. Returning to “reality” made me restless, and I coped with it by writing on my old blog, Journey to Ithaca.

At that time I was just beginning to embrace the minimalist lifestyle, and I quit Facebook for the first time. I reached out to a number of other bloggers through email, including one I will refer to as “Kyle,” who wrote a blog about mindfulness and meditation. Kyle got my attention when he commented on one of my blog posts, recommending the book Linchpin by Seth Godin and saying that I should read it, because it really applies to me.

I always loved it when friends recommended books, and I would always email them with my thoughts (and general commentary) when I had finished the book. This book, however, completely blew my mind. The information in the book, coupled with the idea that Kyle had said that I was a “linchpin” and capable of accomplishing great things, was mentally overwhelming. I began to realize that every assumption I had held about myself was likely false. I saw that I had been holding a negative identity of myself, and that my beliefs about myself were holding me back.

Kyle encouraged me in this redefining process and recommended more books for me to read about brain research, Zen, and positive thinking. At times during this process, I felt like I was losing my mind, and my emailing habits became quite excessive. Kyle had his own challenges, and while our interactions were purely platonic, I don’t know that they were necessarily “healthy.” However, he did lead me to the mountain that I would climb. He introduced me to ideas that would become the mainstay of my journey.

As I was reading and studying, my situation at my job only became worse. I was unhappy with it, and I wanted to see more and do more. The work that I had done allowed me to understand that I was in control of my situation, and that led me to make the choice to travel with my family across the country and start a new life. I saw that we could create something new, although I was terrified of repeating the same play on a new stage.

Eventually, I had made it as far as Kyle could lead me, and our paths split into different directions. We lost contact, which seemed to be for the best. Still, I am grateful for what I learned and the beginning of my journey.

2013-2016: The Beginning of the Ascent

Guide: Ewa

I had started working with an online life coach before I moved to Texas, but I really did not commit to the process until a few months after I had moved. I had been introduced to the idea of redefining limiting beliefs by Kyle, but with Ewa, I went through boot camp!

Through our emails, Ewa taught me techniques for calming my very overactive fight-or-flight response, then guided me through a questioning process to uncover and replace all the assumptions I had been holding. I realized that I had a constant verbally abusive commentary running through my head, and I was able to stop it rather early in our work together.

My new job was not working out as wonderfully as I thought it would, and for awhile I had multiple email exchanges with Ewa over the course of a day. With her guiding me through the redefining process, I was able to change my perception of myself, which in turn, helped to improve my situation. After two years, I was moved into a much better-suited position at work.

Near the end of my time working with Ewa, I asked her to train me in her method, and I began working with coaching clients. I loved being able to help others in the way that I had been helped, and I was able to see that everyone is vulnerable and everyone faces fear. While I eventually stopped doing coaching (because I quickly burned out on the marketing aspect of running a side hustle), working with clients was an important step in my journey.

It was through my work with redefining, that I first experienced what I referred to as “the place of love”–the state of mind that lies beyond fear, assumption, and identity. It was fleeting, but it was very real.

It was while I was working with Ewa that I discovered yoga. I saw my overeating as a response to being in fight-or-flight and an effort to ground myself, so I joined a gym to try and adopt some healthier habits. This gym had a yoga class, and one of my friends in Michigan always talked about how much she loved yoga. (I wrote more about my yoga journey here).

I wrote to Ewa after my first few classes, discouraged because my body was so inflexible and there were 20-year-olds in class doing handstands. Ewa’s response was: “But what yoga really teaches you is that you can’t compare, that the only journey is your own. That each time you stand at the top of your mat, you bring your focus onto the tip of your nose and your breathing, cultivating your sense of awareness in a practice that is different every day, even if you do the same postures over and over.”

By then, I was living on a boat with very comfortable living space, working in a job that was okay, and looking for a new place to practice yoga. Ewa was looking to make a career change, when I emailed her and said I had found a new yoga studio that I loved, and I joked that I had a “girl crush” on the instructor, who would become guide #3.

Ewa and I have kept in touch through our new adventures, with a few emails throughout the year.

2016-2020: The Steep Approach to the Summit

Guide: Cass

My yoga teacher, Cass, says that 3 is the number of completion, so it is very fitting that she was the third guide on my journey.

I have written before about my yoga practice and the lessons I have learned from Cass, but I think it is important to note that I could not have learned and grown as much as I did, if I had not done the groundwork prior to the day I found Moonlight Yoga. The steepest climb on the mountain happened during my time working with Cass, but I had to climb up to that point before I could begin to traverse the rockiest part of the path.

It was during this leg of my journey that I began to see the full extent of the damage done by my lack of self-value. My work situation had become abusive, I spent my time with friends who did not lead me to become my best self, I drank way too much, and my binge eating was completely out of control.

Yes, I knew how to redefine, but I often would not do it on my own, because I was too angry at myself. I considered everyone to be a potential threat, and I did not know how to even begin to self-advocate without being passive-aggressive.

I enlisted the help of a therapist and later, a dietician as well. Therapy helped me to process my emotions as I faced the challenges and made the necessary life changes during this time.

But yoga was my mainstay and my path back to myself. And Cass was the one who helped me access it.

It was Cass who helped me to find my voice and showed me that it is okay to speak up and address issues directly. It was Cass who encouraged me during 6 am classes while I was going through my last year at my old job. It was Cass who told me with absolute confidence that her role was to show me my value and told me that I was beautiful when I was at my heaviest. It was Cass who was my biggest cheerleader when I decided to go back to teaching full time.

She was the first person I told when I was offered my dream job.

Cass taught me that I can create a new reality, and, most importantly, that I am deserving my dreams. Yoga has led me to create a life better than I ever imagined was possible. It is because of yoga that I look in the mirror and see a beautiful person looking back.

Yoga taught me patience. My body has consistently become more flexible, but it has been very slow, steady progress. I have learned that if this is okay with me, then this is okay. And I have learned to see and appreciate the slow, steady progress that I have made throughout my life, with my mind and with my habits.

Cass never told me what to do, but she always supports me in reaching the goals that I have set for myself. From day 1, her words and actions have been leading me closer to my fourth guide, the one who will accompany me to the top of the mountain.

2020-Present: Approaching the Top and Watching the Sunrise

Guide: Bethany

Now the drama is (mostly) gone, and I am finding that I can take risks as I reach toward my dreams. My dreams themselves have grown, and I understand that failure only happens if I give up. I realize that if something is okay with me, then it is okay. I no longer feel the need to seek approval or validation (although I do like to brag about my accomplishments!).

This does not mean that I am perfect. I still have crabby days and days of self-doubt. And I understand that being okay with those is also a part of the process.

The best part is that as I have made peace with myself, I have become more understanding of those around me. I have had the confidence to step into more roles where I can give back, and I believe in myself enough to take chances and make a difference.

My yoga practice is still very much a part of all of this, and Cass is still a very significant mentor in my life. However, there has definitely been a shift, and I am definitely the guide on this leg of the journey.

The yoga nidra that my friend led years ago, ends with you and the guide reaching the top of the mountain and watching the sun rise over the city and valley below. I am not to the peak yet, but when I get there, I will definitely share pictures of the beautiful sunrise.

January

January Reflections Day 2: Into the Fire

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For my meditation today, I imagined a large fire, built slowly and lovingly.  Into this fire, I threw everything that no longer served me.

Resolutions and goals often involve adding new habits and patterns to our lives.  However, with this adding must come some subtracting.

These are the things that I will be throwing into the fire:

  • My perception of myself as needy or annoying.
  • My perception of myself as mentally ill or otherwise not whole.
  • My perception that something is wrong with me.
  • My perception of myself as socially awkward.
  • My eating disorder.
  • My need to use alcohol to numb emotions.
  • My perception of myself as not being accepted.
  • My fear of setting boundaries or confrontation.
  • My perception of myself as being weak (emotionally or physically).
  • My perception of myself as not being physically flexible.
  • My need for validation.
  • My perception of myself as incapable and irresponsible.

Everyday this month, I will envision burning these habits of the body and mind, and then I will visualize what my life will look like once I have gotten rid of these things.

There are so many things–addictions, habits, misperceptions–that stand in the way of our dreams.  While it isn’t good to constantly think about what we don’t want, spending a little time imagining those obstacles burning away can be incredibly freeing.  It can open up space for us to more clearly picture what we do want.

This exercise can also help keep us from addiction-hopping.  I know so many people who gave up alcohol but began overeating.  It is the same pattern, but with a different substance.  Being committed to letting go of the pattern and being open to learning new ways of coping is what leads us to freedom from all addiction.

So today, think about what it is that you would like to release.  What would you throw into the fire?

January

January Reflections, Day 1: First Day as a Butterfly

I imagine it is a little awkward for the former caterpillar, when it first emerges from its cocoon.  Its whole body has changed, and it has abilities beyond its wildest imagination.  And yet, it feels the same.  It is the same caterpillar it has always been, at heart.

Walking feels different, and it wonders why it can no longer crawl.  It can not figure out how to eat the leaves that it used to enjoy.

Bewildered, the caterpillar seeks out its friends–all of whom are caterpillars, spread throughout the green plants.  They each give advice, based on their caterpillar experience.  Keep your belly on the ground.  Try taking little nibbles.  Practice crawling more.  Stop standing up like that–it will not help you get anywhere quickly.  Just ignore those wing things–nobody knows what they are for.

The caterpillar heeds their advice and begins to wonder what it wrong with it.  I was doing so well, the caterpillar thinks.  Why have I suddenly lost every skill I had?  Everything that ever got me through life, everything that helped me to get to where I am now…none of it is working for me anymore.  And why can’t I relate to these other caterpillars?  They are my friends.  They have been my greatest support through everything that has gotten me here.  Why is their advice not serving me now?

After spending the day trying to crawl on the ground, the caterpillar flaps its wings and feels its feet leaving the ground.  Excitedly, the caterpillar runs to its friends and tells them it can fly.

Some friends do not understand.  Some friends tell the caterpillar to stop trying to leave the ground–it isn’t safe or natural.  Best to stick with what is known to work.  Some are so caught up in their daily life crawling on the ground, that they do not notice that their friend is able to fly.

Looking up, the caterpillar–which is actually a butterfly, of course–sees other butterflies fluttering about, drinking the sweet nectar of the flowers.  They eagerly encourage the new butterfly to join them, and the butterfly’s heart yearns to soar above, delighting in the new, beautiful world where it now belongs.

But then it looks to the caterpillars on the ground.  Those are its friends.  Yes, many of them will eventually be butterflies in the sky as well, but leaving them in that moment is unspeakably hard.  But the butterfly can not force the caterpillars to journey to this next step.  Nothing can force growth, and it will always happen in its own time.

There is work for the butterfly to do…as a butterfly.  It has a purpose, and its purpose is not on the ground with the caterpillars any longer.

Looking up toward its beckoning new friends, the butterfly spreads its wings and soars toward all that is new.

Health, Philosophy

How Personal Growth Changes Relationships

Image result for mommy friends clipart

Losing weight, finding sobriety, and making career changes can all lead to losing friends.  A simple Google search will confirm this and largely paint this as negative.  Former friends will push food and feel left out when you aren’t able to go to pizza night.  Old drinking buddies will pressure you to have “just one more,” and you will never feel comfortable joining them at the bar.

And yet my experience was different.  None of my friends cared what I ate when we got together.  Nobody batted an eye when I brought my own salad dressing and coffee creamer.  When I started ordering Shirley Temples, everyone was very supportive, and even insisted I send my drink back if it had too few cherries.  Nobody pushed food on me.  Nobody pressured me to drink.

But still, I experienced major shifts in all of my relationships, and I ended up letting go of some of my closest friendships.  This is because the changes I had made had less to do with food and alcohol, and more to do with learning to love and value myself.  And as I learned to love and value myself, I began to seek out those who would value me as well.

It began with my closest group of friends.  For two years, we would meet up and support each other through our struggles.  But I noticed a change when I began losing weight.  I found myself downplaying my accomplishments, and when I did share something positive, it was ignored at best.  Nobody was being mean–we were just moving in different directions.  I felt a sense of hope, that I was unable to force anyone else to feel.  We were just at different places.

And then in my other interactions, I began to notice how unkindly I was being treated, and how much energy I was wasting on people who did not care.  Recently, I was writing Christmas notes to acquaintances, in an effort to bring more joy to their day.  I became very jaded when I number of these people threw these notes away, without saying a word to me.  Now, my interactions with these people had been slightly strained, and I realized that my notes were a way of seeking connection with people who were not interested in connecting.  I was wasting energy chasing people and seeking their approval.

Finally, in the midst of this realization of negativity, I brought a case of water to my yoga class.  When I go grocery shopping, I usually pick up a case of water to put in the refrigerator at the studio, since it is easier than storing my own water and cheaper than buying a bottle every night.  Even though I share the water with everyone, I come out ahead.

As I walked through the door, balancing the case of water on one arm, while holding my mat and props in the other, my teacher immediately took the case from me and said, “Bethany that is so sweet of you!  Thank you so much–I really appreciate it.”

At that point I realized that my teacher was not going above and beyond, with that statement.  She was acknowledging my act of kindness in the way that acts of kindness deserve to be acknowledged.  (I am not referring to random acts of kindness here–I had done this deed seeking connection, and I had found it).

After class, I told her that I wanted to create a reality where her response to my kind gestures was the rule and not the exception.  That I wanted to spend time and energy with people who valued me for who I am.  She said, “Look at all you’ve accomplished, Bethany.  You can create any reality you want.”

So, moving forward into the new year, with “Create” as my one word focus, this is my promise to myself, in my relationships:

1.   I will not waste time on groups where I am invisible.

I have lost count of the number of conversations where I have been interrupted as soon as I opened my mouth to speak.  Or where my comments have gone unacknowledged.  I have Googled this and tried tip after tip to make myself more “interesting.”

But here’s the thing.  While I understand that someone might occasionally get excited and talk over someone else (and I know I have done the same thing), even if I am not perfect–even if my social graces might even be lacking at times–I deserve to be around people who value me and value my contribution.  I do not need to try to be good enough to not be interrupted constantly.

Along the same lines, I am done with trying to get into conversations that I am closed out of.  You know the scenario.  Some friends are standing in a circle, having a conversation, and you walk over to join in.  Slowly, the circle closes in, leaving you out.

I used to think this was normal, until a close friend of mine did it a few weeks ago.  This is exclusion.

It is okay if not every group wants me as a member.  I am not for everyone.  But it is not okay for me to keep trying to change who I am, so that the groups will want me to join in.  If I am not accepted for who I am, then they are not my tribe.  I would rather have a smaller tribe, than hustle for approval.

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2.  My vulnerability must be earned.

I like to give.  I have come to understand that acts of service is my primary love language, and that giving of my time and energy is simply something that I do in an effort to connect with those around me.

At the same time, I also enjoy doing random acts of kindness.  These are often anonymous, and done in a way that the person will not be able to find me in order to contact me afterward.  This is something that brings me joy and also helps me to feel connect to humanity at large.

The problem comes when I mix up these two “motives.”  When I am giving and expecting nothing in return, giving is its own reward.  However, when I am giving in order to express my love and friendship to someone, I am giving with the expectation of connection.  This is not “wrong.”  Everyone has a way in which they express these things, and everyone is hoping for connection in response to their efforts.

Giving with the expectation of connection, involves vulnerability.  When I wrote the Christmas notes to my acquaintances, I was putting myself out there.  I was very hurt by their reactions, but in the past I would have continued to reach out to them and seek their acceptance.  But now I realize that they have not “earned” my vulnerability.  If it is not a connection, I can simply let it go.

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3.  I will stay away from the co-dependent dynamic.

For so long, I was the friend who struggled, who “needed help.”  I was so convinced that I needed someone to save me, that I often fell into the co-dependent dynamic in my friendships.  I would be clingy at times, and I would immediately contact the other, seemingly stronger, person for advice and support.

Some friends immediately set boundaries with this, but others became addicted to “helping.”  Their role in my journey became their addiction, and this often led to them becoming more involved than what would be appropriate.  This never ended well.

My desire to have equal friendships and avoid falling under the wing of a co-dependent friend, has led me to approach this from both angles.  First, I do tend to stay away from or set boundaries with friends who show signs of co-dependency.  I make my own choices.  I fight my own battles.  I take care of myself.

But I also am mindful in my role in creating and perpetuating this dynamic.  I am learning to stop myself before running to someone else for “help” when I am facing strong emotions or other challenges.  I am learning to use my tools, so that I am not constantly seeking a rescuer.

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4.  I am seeking experiences beyond support groups.

When I was getting started losing weight, Weight Watchers was an excellent source of support.  I went to workshops, I joined Facebook groups, and I was in contact with many people on a similar path.  In the same way, AA was very helpful when I was struggling with my sobriety, both in person and on social media.

And yet, I don’t see myself as a “lifer” in either of these groups.  My struggles are a part of who I am, and overeating and drinking alcohol are two coping mechanisms that I am working to avoid.  But I think there is a danger in defining myself by these struggles.

The focus of my life right now, is not on weight maintenance or sobriety.  It is in using the tools that I have gained through losing weight and becoming sober, to move forward.  So surrounding myself with peers who are still struggling with these issues, is not going to help me accomplish my goals.

It is one thing if I want to do service and help people who are still struggling with these issues.  But for my own growth, I need to look to other places, to new horizons.

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5.  I no longer worry about finding “like minded” friends.

Surprisingly, I have found that I feel more comfortable being myself (and more accepted) by friends who have different political, religious, or lifestyle views than my own.  In fact, I have found that in “like minded” groups, dissenting from the group set of beliefs is strongly frowned upon.

When I am around friends with differing beliefs, we all feel free to share our ideas and learn and grow together.  When we accept that our views are different, we are more respectful of each other’s views.  As I have gone through this evaluating process, I have come to realize that I have four friends whom I trust very strongly.  One of them is my husband.

And yet, my husband and I have different religious beliefs.  And I vote differently than two of my other friends.  What we do have in common is our mutual love and respect, as well as our desire to learn and grow.

And that is more important than any smaller ideologies.

Health, Minimalism

The Great Facebook Divorce

facebook

In my last post, I told you about how getting rid of my Smartphone changed my life, in a positive way.  And one of the largest positives was that it led me to spend less time on Facebook.

My relationship with Facebook was already complicated.  In November 2012, I deleted my account, and did not have another account for a year.  I found that my life was less stressful and I wasted less time online, in pointless arguments, once I deleted Facebook.

I kept in touch with many people in the minimalist blogging community through email.  I did spend way too much time writing emails, as I used email as my substitute for social networking.  It was enjoyable and addictive at first, but eventually the emails fizzled.

A year later, many of the bloggers I had connected with were either ending their blogs or moving forward and trying to expand and monetize.  I had moved to Texas, and my blog was more of a photo-sharing site for my family at that time.  I communicated with my relatives across the country through mass e-mails and pictures on my blog.  I found that Facebook was a much simpler way to do this, so I created a new account.

Facebook was incredibly helpful as I settled into my new community when we moved into the marina.  I connected with a Moms’ group and two special needs parenting groups.  I connected with friends from yoga.  Through Facebook I arranged play dates, found out about local events, and participated in a “Freecycle” type group.  It really helped me to get settled in here.

Throughout that time, however, I was learned and changing, rapidly.  I was developing a new view of myself and of life in general.  I was learning to value myself.  There were popularily-held ideas that I was beginning to question.

Strike One

mental health
I get nervous in social situations and have antique rifles. Not much of a threat here.

The first sign that my Facebook days were limited came after the Santa Fe school shooting.  This was practically in my back yard, and I know people who were personally affected.

I found out about the tragedy on Facebook, from my friends marking themselves and their children “safe.”  I got no housework done that morning, and spent hours on Facebook, learning what was known about what happened, and making sure the people I knew were all right.

Then, as I binged on blueberries and plain Greek yogurt (I got a gold star for that at my next Weight Watchers meeting!), I realized with dread, where the conversation was going to go next.  It was going to turn into a heated political debate, and then a subgroup of people would be scapegoated.

I remembered that in past school shootings, people with autism were blamed.  And after Parkland, it was people with mental health diagnoses.  That seemed to be the most popular group to turn into “others”.  Because we can’t believe that a “normal” person like us, could ever do such a thing.

Unfortunately, we all have issues, and if you are actually working on yours, you are probably going to have a mental health diagnosis, or many, in your lifetime.  And I am no exception.  I have been told that I have no mental health diagnosis now, but at various points in my journey I have been placed in many different categories within the DSM.  It’s just how it is.  Like everyone else, I had a lot of crap to work through.  But if you know me at all, you know that there has never been a point in my life where I was at any risk of becoming a mass-murderer.

But you can also imagine that seeing people who have received a diagnosis, being marginalized and scapegoated, is a wee bit upsetting for me.

At first I asked questions and even argued with people.  Then I saw that, without commenting on anything, one of my friends turned her profile picture to, “Closed for spiritual maintenance” as soon as she heard about the shooting.

A lightbulb went off in my head, and I refrained from logging in for a few days.  I decided that people were just talking nonsense, because they would never say any of those thing to me in person.  And if they did want to talk about how incredibly dangerous I was when I was having social anxiety, they could be my guest, in person.

This break was lovely, and my mind settled rather quickly.  I started going out and seeing friends more.  But Facebook was still right there, and it pulled me in after a couple days.

Strike Two

depression
Yes, but with work you can recover.

The second sign that it was time to leave Facebook happened a little less close to home.  It was when Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain died.

Now, I can’t afford designer accessories, and I don’t have cable television.  So I had absolutely no idea who either of these people were, or what struggles they faced in their journies.

But I did see everybody’s response on my newsfeed.

Just like the school shooting, we don’t want to believe that a “normal” person like us could die by suicide.  So of course, we have to establish that they are “others.”

And you guessed it.  They were “others” because they had mental health diagnoses.  Depression, specifically.  I lost interest in knowing what labels I had and when, since it has just been a continuous journey for me, but I do know that it was “depression” at least once.

I had learned that depression–or whatever emotional struggle was a part of my journey at any given time–had physical and cognitive components, and for that reason, there was a lot I could do.  In yoga I learned breathing exercises and stretches to calm my central nervous system.  With my dietician, I learned which foods would help settle my mind.  I knew that walking and listening to uplifting music would do a lot for my mood.  I knew that I needed daily exercise and eight hours of sleep.  I had an entire toolbox of cognitive strategies that I could use when my thoughts were spiralling.

I knew that if all of these tools weren’t enough, I could see a doctor and get medication to help.  And I knew that if, God forbid, I had persistant suicidal thoughts, I could seek help through crisis resources.  I never needed to pursue either of these avenues, but they were there in my toolbox nonetheless.

But this is not how “depression” was portrayed on Facebook.

First, there were “awareness” posts about how people struggle with depression everyday, and it is a physical illness just like diabetes.  Then, there were people who had a diagnosis of depression, who posted that this purely physical illness could flare up anytime, and they could be the next to die.

My thought was that if they are actually getting proper treatment, they should know they do not have to be the next to die.  Drugs alone are rarely enough.

I felt horrible reading these posts, and I talked to one of my friends about how negative Facebook had become.  She recommended some positive pages to follow.  I did, and I put them at the top of my newsfeed.  But then one of these pages joined the “it’s going to be me next” conversation.

I tried joining the conversation, sharing my experience.  But my voice was just one of many in a very destructive echo chamber.  People believed they were ill, that they had no hope or control, and they would only hear other voices confirming that.  I did my best to leave the conversation.

At the same time, I noticed a number of my relationships were changing, as I was changing and growing.  A lot of my friendships were based on the notion that we were both ill, “broken,” or “crazy.”  The difference in our paths became obvious in the prevailing conversations on Facebook.  It became clear that we had very little in common, other than our diagnoses.

They could not understand or support my new direction and achievements, and I could no longer give them the validation or co-misseration that they needed.  I realized I needed some distance, and that I needed to spend more time interacting with people who were supportive of the course my life was now taking.

As I agonized over this, one of my friends urged me to deactivate my account for 48 hours, to give myself some breathing room.  I did, without telling anyone I was going to do it, and my mind immediately calmed down.  I gained some clarity about what I needed to do next.

Strike Three

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By the end of 48 hours, my next course of action was obvious.

Facebook was convenient, but the cons far outweighed the pros.

  • It was sucking up hours of my day.
  • It was an echo chamber for negativity.
  • People said things on Facebook that they would never say in real life, not in a good way.
  • I was never happier after spending time reading my newsfeed, no matter how many people I unfollowed.
  • The negativity on Facebook spread, while the positive messages just seemed to fizzle away.
  • On Facebook I felt pulled toward slactivism.  I wasn’t going to change any lives by posting about my positive experience in overcoming my challenges.  In real life, I at least stand a chance of making someone’s day brighter.

So I pulled the plug.  I messaged the friends I wanted to stay in contact with, and gave them my information.  I downloaded all of my photos and videos (as well as the recipes that my friends had posted!).

Someone recently asked me if I missed it.  The answer is easy: not at all.  I am more present in my daily life.  I am more mindful about the people I choose to spend my time with.  And I am finding my voice.

At first glance, it can be easy to assume that the echo chamber of social media would help me to find my voice and articulate my thoughts.  But it always led me to seek validation, and, as was the case with the mental health issues, it led me to feel crushed and intimidated by the echo chamber.  Just having the space to think clearly and begin to speak my truth, has been amazing.  It’s increased my confidence significantly.

The first time, I left Facebook, my reasons were more universal, almost political.  This time, they are all personal.  Someday, I might create an account again, and be very careful about the people I connect with.

But for now, I’m just enjoying real life.