I’ve been struggling with a bit of a problem lately. Here’s the thing: I’m a writer and I need to be on social media. It’s part of my job description. Yet, I’ve been battling severe clinical depression for quite a while now. Anyone who has experienced clinical depression knows that it often manifests as intense sadness, despair, hopelessness, and numbness. It can cause your normally sharp mind to dull to a witless lump of gray matter, unable to focus, unable to see positives, unable at times to form coherent sentences. Even small decisions become excuciatingly difficult. Creativity disappears. Energy disappears. Humor disappears.
When I’m not depressed, I love being on Twitter (not so much on Facebook except for the cat and baby goat videos). I love people and I love my writing community with their unbounded wit and cleverness and enthusiasm. I love joking around and learning cool stuff and cat gif wars. With Depressed Brain though, social media becomes a looming, scary thing that I am ill-equipped to face.
I knew I needed to be on social media, but every time I opened Twitter or Facebook, I froze. I’d sit there thinking, “Hey loser wimp self (because that’s often how Depressed Brain talks), despite depression, you need to do your job. You need to be online and posting and talking. Do it. Do it now.”
I told myself this and then I clicked on my notifications. Notifications waited for me, people who had engaged with me days before when I’d had a moment of energy and some small semblance of ‘Humor-That-Usually-Comes-Easy-For-Me-But-Evaporates-Into-A-Dark-Ether-When-I’m-Depressed’ to share. Only problem: that energy and humor had long since gone AWOL. I stared at their replies and felt…
guilt – I should be replying and I feel rude not replying but I have NOTHING, nothing to say (other than “Hey wow I’m really depressed and I know I didn’t seem so at the time of this convo but honestly I was then too and now, at this uberly depressed moment, I have no words. By the way, I am an awful person.”).
more guilt and some confusion– I wish I could interact with my fellow humans, but right now my brain is all darkness and doom and gloom and despair. I don’t want to spread my negativity in the world so I will not engage. But this makes me a lousy member of the community doesn’t it? Or does it?
something close to panic – if I reply with something upbeat-sounding, I’ll need to maintain that facade and I. Cannot. Do. That. Right. Now. It would be like trying to smile and joke when your rib cage has been crushed by a wrecking ball and your innards pulverized into gooey pulp and you’re splatted on your back on the floor. But if I reply with a truthful, “Sorry, depressed here. Aaaand that’s pretty much all I got. Hope your day is going well though. Please don’t reply to this reply because then I will have to talk some more and that’s kinda the absolute last thing I feel like I can do right now.”, then I feel like I’ve exposed myself (NOOOO!) AND done a thoroughly inadequate job of Being A Communicating Human and geez I royally suck. This sounds really lame as I write this but I’m not exaggerating. In the midst of depression, the simple act of talking intelligibly can be torturous.
And if I’m truthful and post that I’ve been absent because I’ve been depressed then a lot of beautiful people will be quick to tell me “HUGS” or “I understand and it’s okay.” or a million other kind words. But then I feel like I need to reply to everyone and OMG can I do this I don’t think I can do this it’s physically and psychically excruciating I need to crawl back into my silent dark corner again I seriously neeeeeeed it. And then the guilt explodes and Depressed Brain yells “REPLY TO THESE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, YOU WIMP,” and so I do but then quickly log off because my God I am exhausted now and feel lousy about myself for Being Depressed Around People and yes I know this is counterproductive thinking and I’ll try to work on my cognitive distortions when I’m feeling a bit stronger but lawd help me I need to isolate and recuperate for about two months after that Extreme Socializing Thing.
So I tell myself, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow you’ll feel better and then you’ll get back on social media. But then tomorrow comes and I do not feel better. I’m trying to do all the things the Depression Experts tell you to do when your depressed: get some sunshine and exercise. Maintain a regular sleep schedule, don’t isolate, do something productive, take your meds etc, but I’m still in a very bad head space. I’m managing to handle all my chores and errands and book revisions, but interacting with other humans feels impossible. Day two turns into day three and then day four. “Get on social media!” you demand of yourself. Although now you’re brain is so confused and dark that you have zero idea how to even do that. Maybe just retweet some stuff and then disappear again? But it’s called social media, self, and that isn’t really being “social” now is it?
Confusion, depression, guilt.
Kinda desperate now, I Google “posting on social media when you’re depressed” but the only articles that come up are: How Social Media Use Is Linked To Depression, Golly Did You Know That Twitter and Facebook Make You Depressed?, How I Got Off Social Media And Now Everything Is Rainbows And Happy Jumpy Unicorns. (And then you decide to write this post because the topic of “posting on social media when you’re depressed” isn’t covered anywhere that you can find.)
So this is my official “posting on social media when you’re depressed” post. Except I’m not really an advice giver so if you are in this situation (depressed yet trying to maintain your socia media stuff), I’m not going to sling advice at you. I can tell you what I’ve tried and what has kinda, sorta worked for me though.
- Check my cognitive distortions. See my post on cognitive distortions for some of the common ones: https://sonyacraig.com/2016/08/11/cognitive-distortions/. Does my social media presence have to be either FUNNY AWESOME STUFF OF SUPREME EXCELLENCE or SUCKMEISTER DEPRESSO EXTRAORDINARILY YUCKY DOG PUKE? Will the world really stop spinning on its canted axis if I tweet kinda meh stuff because that’s the best I can do right now?
- Get on social media in brief bursts when I feel able and then, when I need to retreat, inform everyone that I am leaving for a bit. (I’ve done a lousy job at the informing people part and I’ll try to do better.)
- Avoid depressing hashtags, news, and rants. Depressed Brain can’t handle more depression.
- Social media seems to have moods. Some days it’s Wee Hee Escaped Llamas Giddy Happiness. If that’s the case, then I may be able to hang around a bit. When, however, the general mood is ALL IS SUCKY IN THE UNIVERSE AND EVERY OUNCE OF HOPE NEEDS TO BE DROP-KICKED INTO THIS BURNING TRASH FIRE OF A WORLD, then I click off and try to go find some happy unicorns somewhere. (not this one)
- Keep it light. Any heavy topics can wait for another day.
- If my creativity isn’t there, I’ve stopped trying to force it. It isn’t a national emergency if my Current Personal Level Of Interesting rivals old dried sludge.
So that’s how I handle social media when I’m in the throes of clinical depression. I hope you never have depression, but if, like many writers, you do experience it, then I hope maybe this post helps a tiny bit. And if you have any tips for Social Media-ing While Under The Influence Of Sucky Depression, I’d love to hear from you.
As always, stay weird and prosper my friends.