In which I renew my commitment to the full experiment…

I realize the focus of my writing has widened beyond just the 99 day Facebook experiment. It now includes the journey of healing I’m beginning with my anxiety and depression. More on that in a minute.

I am two-thirds of the way through the experiment. If you were to look at my profile page on FB, the only posts that I have made were the two that I shared with close friends back when I went to the ER for my heart. All of the other activity is from me being tagged in photos or status updates by other users. To an outsider, it would appear as if I haven’t logged on in weeks… in reality, I have been silently reading the activity of my closest friends for every day of the past few weeks. In my mind, I have justified it because I have not been posting anything for myself, but if I am honest I realize that I have been cheating on the experiment. Facebook has continued to be a time-waster for me. It is interesting, though – I no longer think in status updates. At the beginning of the 99 days, I would have a thought cross my mind and immediately be tempted to type it out for my friends to see, but that urge has completely faded. In contrast, I’ve seen a couple of people’s activity over the past week or so that have caused me to think, “Wow, that person must be really lonely or have nothing to do, because she has posted 4-5 times per day every day this week.” Then I realize, that was me just a few short weeks ago. What in the world?? Why was I so desperate to be noticed? And now, as I fall back into my old habits of reading the site daily – what am I so worried that I’ll miss? I have read absolutely nothing that I couldn’t have learned from other sources. So today, I once again commit myself to staying away from the site.¬† I will reclaim the bits of time that I have spent peering into the carefully crafted windows of others’ lives.

I have been taking a daily anti-depressant for three weeks. I do feel that my mood is lightening. I don’t feel quite as sad, lonely, and hopeless as I have in times past. My medication dosage may need to be tweaked here and there, but I feel like we are on the right path.

Within the next week or so, I will be seeing my electrophysiologist to discuss the results of the thirty day event recorder that I wore to detect any lingering heart abnormalities. It will be interesting to see if it caught anything of note. Personally, I’m almost more excited to eat at the Caribbean restaurant near the doctor’s office than to find out my results. Maybe that is because this cardiac journey has been a very slow one and I’m used to living in uncertainty… but those arepas, plantains, and black beans sound so good!

Advertisements

Day One on Zoloft

Starting today, I am taking an anti-depressant. I will ease up to a full dose over the next week and see my doctor in two weeks. At that point, we will reevaluate and decide if any adjustments are necessary.

People have told me I am brave to have been so forthcoming with my recent issues. I realize that there have been chemical abnormalities in my brain that cause me to feel weird. I know that I have a strong family history of serious mood disorders and that I am breaking the cycle of living in the dark pit.

I feel weak. I feel shame. I feel sorrow for causing pain to myself and my family.

I know that is the depression talking. The stigma of mental health issues. The voice of well-meaning but ignorant church people that say all I have to do is pray harder and have more faith so God will pull me up from the darkness and into the Joy.

One of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton, has encouraged me today. As she describes in this video, I’m choosing to Do the Next Right Thing, which for me right now is taking an extra pill every day. This is a defining moment for me and for my family, and I’m learning what it is to have Enough.

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:12-13, NIV

Trading in my telescope for a magnifying glass…

Time for an update:

I am taking my health quite seriously. A small, credit card-sized heart monitor has joined my daily fashion for a month, and any irregularities are transmitted via land line phone to my heart specialist. The guess is that I may need another surgery for arrhythmia, but we will know much more when/if the monitor catches anything. I have been feeling OK physically and my other cardiologist says he is optimistic. I’ve just begun walking in the mornings after my oldest gets on the school bus. My hope is that the exercise will strengthen my weakened heart muscle as well as boost my mood. Speaking of…

I have an appointment with my general practice doctor tomorrow. The meeting is specifically to discuss my depression and anxiety and attempt to form a plan for recovery. I have been wary of adding medications to my routine, as I jumped from two pills per day last year to now nine (all additions as a result of the discovery of my heart issues). But I have been learning that it is normal for heart patients to experience depression, and that it makes even more sense that I would struggle with it since I was prone to mood disorders before my problems arose last October.

As for the Facebook experiment, well, I am failing. Sorta. The parameters that I set for myself initially allowed contact with friends via Facebook Messenger, but I have found myself also reading my News Feed in the past few days. What jumped out at me was, “Wow, there is a LOT of crap here that I don’t care about or want to know at all.” Since I was already on the site, I edited my Friends List by unfollowing most people. The majority I chose to follow were friends that have made the effort to contact me over the past few weeks, friends that I would consider close, and friends whose posts inspire me or always make me laugh. In other words, I am choosing to invite positive, meaningful relationships into my daily life (when I officially return to FB, of course). I did not unfriend anyone. They will still be able to see my posts if or when I return to posting my own content, and I can look them up specifically if I want to get caught up with their lives. I also weeded out about half of the businesses that I had liked.

I have also decided to take a break from job hunting. The search has been fruitless for months, and I think it is a major contributor to my growing depression. Instead, I have been taking that energy and pouring it into the development of a realistic family budget, the drastic pruning of our expenses, and the discovery of new ways for us to save on necessary purchases. We withdrew a chunk of money from retirement and paid off a large amount of credit card debt. The rest has been transferred to cards with zero interest. In our efforts to save monthly, I was ready to cancel our Hulu Plus subscription… until someone told me about how to earn a free month of the subscription with Bing Rewards. I rid us of that expense, which makes our cord cutting feel like it is even more freeing. I found the app, Price Cruncher, which allows for grocery price comparison. One (long!) Saturday of shopping at seven different grocery stores was eye-opening, and shopping the weekly ads has become a new habit. I’ve also been baking more bread, hanging our laundry out to dry, and making homemade versions of peanut butter, Nutella, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and shampoo. Our chickens should be ready to start laying eggs within a month or two, and that should give us a source of small income. Of course, we will also have an abundance of eggs for ourselves, so I have been collecting egg recipes to use for our hen berry harvest.

All of this shows me how important it was for me to walk away from social media for a while, at the precise time at which I did. My focus was waaaay too broad for my own good. I was spending excessive amounts of time trying to take in as many details of the online world as possible, while living in denial and ignoring my own needs. But in the last several weeks, I’ve walked away from the telescope and picked up a magnifying glass. I have chosen to focus on the small little corner of the real world in which I live. That world is messy and broken and ugly and breathtakingly beautiful. So now, I hug my loved ones and get my work gloves on, because there is some hard work to be done.

33 Days Into the Experiment

I received the first survey from 99 Days of Freedom today, asking about my experiences for the first third of my time away from Facebook. Through my responses, I realized that I am diving deeper into myself than simply stepping away from the social media site.

I am struggling with some pretty huge life issues right now. I think these contribute to the need I felt to step away from social media for a while, not that they have been caused by it. But anxiety, depression, and issues of self-worth are weighing heavily on me. Health problems, an unsuccessful job search that has been in the works for months, and depleting financial accounts are taking their toll on my psyche. I know that I view myself in a much more negative light than others see me. All of the stories that have been emerging online after Robin Williams’ death have helped me to recognize the level of depression that I’ve been facing. I am hesitant to add another medication to my daily routine, but I think I have no choice but to call my doctor and ask her if I may be a candidate for taking something for my mood disorder.

Life’s Most Valuable Resource, wasted. This is sobering.

My Facebook Fast was briefly interrupted last weekend as I had an ER visit and was kept for observation. That event is for another post on another day, but I did reach out to about 20 close friends on Facebook at that time. I’m now back on the bandwagon and not missing it a bit.

However, facing a serious health crisis while lying in an ICU bed tends to make one think of mortality and how one’s life is spent. Am I living life well? What would my young children remember of me if I were suddenly gone? Would they remember me hugging on them, cooking with them, doing adventurous things with them? Or, would they remember seeing my face buried in a laptop or phone, attempting to communicate with faceless “friends” in unknown places?

Most people say that Time is life’s most precious resource. It is given to all of us, but we never know how much we have. And when it is gone, it is gone. You can’t get it back. I have been squandering my time away like I have endless stores of it, but my recent health issues have reminded me that my account does have a limit.

Back in January, Facebook celebrated its tenth anniversary. TIME.com posted an article at that time on their Tech page, entitled “How Much Time Have You Wasted On Facebook?” After linking your Facebook profile to their site and estimating how many minutes per day you typically spend on Facebook, a counter begins. You can sit and watch the minutes, hours, and days accumulate as the app scans the timestamps on your Facebook posts and activity. It also shows a counter for how many things you have posted on Facebook since joining the social media site.

I am embarrassed to share mine. What a terrible waste.

Screenshot 2014-07-24 11.03.20

This simply has to change.

I don’t know how many days I have with my husband. With my children. I have faced some serious health issues in the past ten months, and this app now tells me that I have given almost that much time to my computer.

If I am drawn to Facebook primarily out of a need for relationships, then this same need is the exact reason why I should walk away from the site, possibly forever.

In the past couple weeks, I have figured out ways to seek out connection with the important people in my life. I don’t need Facebook to do it for me. When I see the people that matter to me, we actually have real conversations because we have not shared every sordid detail of our lives with each other online. The hardest part has been reminding those still active on the site that I haven’t read their timeline and they have to remember to tell me about things they’ve shared. But all in all, these are very doable adjustments.

I’m so flustered by the Wasted Time Clock pictured above that I can’t even figure out how to end this blog post. Please, be gentle with any judgement you may be tempted to dole out because of my poor time management. Instead, may I suggest that all of us examine ways that we are not present with the loved ones that surround us, and that we try today to eliminate a distraction or two so we can see them and love them, right here, right now.

Because time is ticking away.

Withdrawal is Fading

I’m not quite a week into my 99 days without Facebook, but I’m already beginning to notice my dependence fading.

This morning, I stumbled out of bed and cooked blackberry pancakes for my children. My seven-year-old is home for her first day of summer vacation since she finished a local day camp program, and she has been begging me to make pancakes with some of the blackberries we have in abundance on our property. I usually hesitate to make pancakes. They aren’t my favorite breakfast food, and I swear I am the slowest pancake maker in the world. From getting out the mixing bowls to taking the final cake off the griddle, it took about an hour.

But, I cooked them for my kids, mostly because my older daughter is old enough that she is making memories. Do I want for her to look back someday and remember me saying “no” to things, over and over, or for her to remember the times I said “yes?”

They scarfed down breakfast and asked for seconds. As I refilled their plates, I thought to check my calendar for today… but where was my phone??

My phone was still on the charger, an hour after I awoke for the day – something that never would have happened if I were still obsessed with staying connected via social media.

Usually, my phone would be in my hand before my feet even hit the floor in the morning. I often spent ten minutes or more reading posts or status updates online before rolling out of bed.

But today, I didn’t give my phone a single thought. Instead, I fulfilled the wishes of my daughter and invested in the relationships of three little souls that have been entrusted to my care.

Totally worth it.

If a tear falls without being mentioned on Facebook, does it still count?

Today was supposed to be a Girls Day Out.

My two daughters and I had a lazy morning at home, eating breakfast and watching cartoons in our PJs. We had tickle fights, played, and sang songs together. I leisurely got myself ready for the day as the older one brushed her hair and got dressed. The most stressful moment of the morning was convincing the two-year-old that the white butterfly clip I wanted to put in her hair would not hurt her head. Finally, with hair fixed and shoes on (which is quite a task), we were ready to head out to the car.

All I needed to do was find my keys.

I’m not sure how much time passed before I realized they were not here. My guess is that they are in the other car, the one that my husband drove today that is now parked 15 miles away. He is on a Daddy-Son outing and won’t return until tonight.

No more Girls Day Out.

This really shouldn’t be a big deal. At least, not as big as it felt to me. I’ve always dealt poorly with forced spontaneity. When plans change quickly, I feel unsettled and disjointed. And because I’ve walked away from Facebook, I have been feeling more isolated and disconnected from the outside world, so I was really looking forward to being out with real people and socializing. Not to mention the fact that these special days are something we have taught our kids to highly value. I had talked up our Day Out with our seven-year-old, and now, I had to cancel.

As all of these thoughts came rushing into my mind, I cried. As much as I knew this would soon pass, that the girls would base their reaction on my lead, and that the day could easily be salvaged, I needed a moment to grieve the plans that would never happen. So, I whispered a couple swear words and tears fell.

But, here is where I was surprised: I immediately felt like I needed to share the negative experience on Facebook, and I was frustrated that I could not do so because of my commitment to stay away from the site for 99 days.

I wonder why??

Do I need permission to feel sad?
Someone to give me a new perspective on the situation?
Virtual pats on the shoulder to tell me everything will be okay?

This realization threw me. Am I scared to feel emotion alone?

The girls and I are resetting the day. The relatives we were traveling to see are on their way here. We may spend time making something special in the kitchen today, and I think my grade-schooler and I will play a much-loved board game during the toddler’s nap.

I may take a couple pictures, but with the intent of preserving the memories of the day, not sharing them instantly with friends online.