Through being in hospital I have come into contact with around a hundred other young people. Possibly more. Some were just brief acquaintances- admitted for a day or so and some I built friendships with. But there are a lot of people who I won’t stay in contact with post-discharge. I have to let go.
In particular I am talking about people who I follow online who share their struggle with the world. Like me they share experiences but most do it through social networks. Minute by minute highs and terrifying lows. Rushed instagrams about pills and razors. I have called the police several times for several people who said they were trying to end their lives online. Every time I stayed up all night until the police got back to me and said that they were fine. My OCD goes overboard with the worry and it is frustrating to be so useless in a situation. I know these posts are sometimes cries for help or attention but if something happened I couldn’t live with myself. What if they are doing something bad but no one else hears the cry?
I’m not going to lie- this action is completely selfish. I can’t cope with what I’m seeing. I know that some people feel great benefit from lsharing during their deepest darkest moments but I personally don’t. This blog is written in hindsight. I would never post anything that would make people concerned to the point that they would phone the police. Truthfully this is because in those times I don’t want anyone to save me so posting would be an unnecessary risk. It has never occurred to me to publish that I am in the process of, or planning to, hurt myself. I talk about the times I have been- but I am always standing in a better place when I do. Sharing my story and my experience is my attempt at awareness raising so I try hard to keep my blog rational, honest and informative.
When I go on social media I don’t want to be reminded of my time in hospital. Hypocritical as it sounds from a mental health blogger, I don’t want to look at it. I’ve had traumatic experiences involving other patients in hospital and though people didn’t mean to hurt me the memories spark from the smallest of posts. I need to process my experiences for myself and having other people rip off the metaphoric plaster and making me remember is hard. Plus when you struggle with thoughts about weight and food the last thing you need is a selfie by someone who hasn’t eaten for a week or a picture of a salad they’ve nibbled when you just fought the demons and ate a burger. I know that behind the usernames they are struggling, even if they do not realise it. However, for people trying to recover, following those accounts is the equivalent of swigging G&T at the back of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I want to make clear that I do genuinely care about everyone who I have met during this process. I really do. I wish them nothing but positive things. But I’m not able to actually help any of them, and by trying to I am hurting myself. I write letters to people I want to stay in contact with because the fact that they take a while to produce and arrive means they are less spontaneous. Where as with a few taps of a finger you can share your perils online. I might follow people on some platforms (the ones they share with family and real life friends) but not the ones they use to network with other warriors or vent. I feel safer like this because there are other followers who would be much more of a help than I if a crisis came about. I don’t even know the addresses of the people I was in hospital with and if something happens I can only offer the police a mobile number at best.
I won’t forget those I’ve met and I’m so angry that these illnesses have intruded into such vibrant young lives. I wish I could help more. If I do step away from you online; I hope you can understand that I wish nothing but the absolute best for you, but this is a step I have to take for my own recovery and I hope one day you will take it too.