It’s been almost a year since I began my treatment journey with chronic illness. My priorities and focus drastically shifted as my health rollercoaster-ed, and while I did my best to keep up with the old things that brought me joy, for a while they just didn’t fit in my life anymore.
I nearly gave up on this little corner of my world. To be completely honest, I’ve had very little desire to write anything, much less post content for hundreds of strangers to see and read. While I believe a part of this was due to my ever-present struggle with depression, I also became disillusioned with the whole aspect of social media. Call it depression, anxiety, burnout, or maybe even maturity, but the thought of putting my private thoughts out there for the world to see became unimaginable and even disgusting for a while.
So, why am I here? Well, I think it’s because of this crazy quarantine.
I’ve always been a homebody. I thrive at home, in my space, quietly going about my business, congregating with my family here and there throughout the day. I like my space, and I like my quiet. For a month, I thrived on this quarantine. I felt no ill effects from it, enjoying the break from weekly therapy, reveling in the fact I didn’t have to travel beyond my own desk and laptop to doctor appointments, regularly FaceTiming with friends and family. And sure, being cooped up 24/7 with your parents may not be ideal for a 25 year-old woman, but I still appreciated the extra time and relaxed vibes our household took on as we all had a break from the busyness of life.
But towards the end of April, I realized what I missed most was connection. My social life has never been very active, yet I missed the little interactions we humans take for granted every day. The jokes passed between friends, a smile shared between you and a cashier, the feeling of community when going out for a walk on a sunny day and seeing everyone else enjoying exactly what you’re enjoying.
A couple of weeks ago, after taking a four month break from Instagram, I began posting in my stories and interacting with those few select friends I had made through the site over the last year. The response to my reappearance was overwhelming. I received so many kind messages welcoming me back and notes of encouragement, and I realized just how much I missed being “surrounded” by other creative people. A few times the anxiety and negative self talk did creep back in as I posted photos or comments and doubted if they were worth it or appreciated, but I am learning to slow down and simply appreciate the fact that I’m able to share my own side of life without worrying about what others think.
However, whether you want to share your entire life story or a few simple cooking tips online, one thing I think we should never lose touch with is being ourselves.
I went through a year feeling very lost and scared amidst a multitude of health issues and unknowns, and I used social media as an outlet to share my struggle and thoughts. I wouldn’t want to go back to that place of vulnerability and raw exposure, at least not on a daily or weekly basis. I’ve learned to appreciate the quietude of keeping certain thoughts to myself and sharing them with the one person who can actually make a true difference in my life — God. I’ve discovered a new aspect of my strength and resilience that I wouldn’t have found had I kept sharing, sharing, sharing every deep personal thought with hundreds of followers.
But I still desire to connect with others on a personal basis. I adore the people in my personal and social media life that are unashamedly themselves, who aren’t afraid to be open, honest, silly, real. For years our society has lived under the idea that we have to hide away the parts of ourselves that don’t fit into the “norm,” when in fact those bits we hide ARE the norm. Each of us is more alike than we realize. Our journeys are individual and look different on the outside, but deep down we all experience the same aspects that make up life in one way or another — joy, pain, grief, fear, uncertainty, self-doubt, love, etc.
In my own journey through anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other physical health issues, I didn’t begin to heal emotionally until I connected with others who had been willing and brave enough to share their stories in a public space. As someone who grew up isolated with little opportunity to connect with others on a regular basis, these people played a part in saving me. They helped chip away at my deep-set loneliness, helped me recognize some of my mental health issues, and gave me the confidence to be able to voice and explain to my loved ones what was happening with me.
I have always said that if presented with the opportunity, I wouldn’t keep silent. (Not for long, at least.) Whether it’s answering questions and speaking openly about my mental health, doing my best to educate others on the dangers of daily toxin interactions, or providing a distraction to those who need a break from the heaviness of life by talking about something as simple as capsule wardrobes, I want to do my part in helping others create their best life.
And I’m not saying blogging will forever remain the form I use to interact and connect. I came close to quitting blogging once, and it won’t be the last. I’m not even certain what I want to continue blogging about as my original ideas for Wildflower + Ink have greatly altered. But I want to be a part of something again, and if the place to start is here, with all of you, then I will come back gladly and thank you for caring enough to be here.
So many of you contact me and ask how I am doing, and as I appreciate your care I will occasionally post updates or comment on what is happening/what I’m struggling with (look out for part two of this post for a more comprehensive update on my chronic illness journey). But, compared to last year, I do want to focus less on posting about my poor health; a hard feat, as it’s still the major player in my life. You will no doubt notice mentions of my health here and there in blog posts, but I’m hoping to use this year to look for the positives and opportunities for gratitude, even if I don’t feel them in the moment. (Say it with me now. “Repetition leads to retention.”). Ultimately, however, I will post what is on my heart. As always.
Check in with yourself today. How are you doing? What can you do to boost your mental and physical self?