By: Julia Lloyd
Everyone has something about themselves they wish they could change. Some even go out of their way to portray themselves differently to others for the sake of keeping their true self hidden.
Every day, I worked on perfecting my social media profiles to portray my ideal self. I sometimes felt like I had two personalities to maintain: one that I hated and one I wanted to be all the time.
I was at a point last year when I wanted to end my life because I couldn’t stand disappointing people with my actual persona. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like being around myself, it had more to do with not living up to what I thought others expected from me.
I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder (GAD) when I was in Grade 10. GAD is when anxiety can be triggered by almost anything that the individual sees fear or unease in. Living with GAD is extremely difficult not just for me, but my friends and family as well.
My anxiety made me panic and black out to the point where I didn’t even remember what I had said two minutes before. My biggest problem was that I couldn’t let things go until my anxiety went away. If I got in a fight with my parents, I wouldn’t leave them alone until the problem was solved because my anxiety wouldn’t let me settle. Sometimes when I got anxious, I would get all this confidence and start saying everything on my mind. As soon as things calmed down, I would instantly regret it.
By the time I got to Grade 12, my anxiety was manageable and I was extremely happy with myself. If you were to look at my social media during that time of my life, it probably portrayed a much realer me.
University was a whole new story. I had anxiety almost every day. I remember being anxious before every journalism class because I felt so disconnected from everyone. It seemed like all the people in my program already had something published and I just had a blog that no one followed.
Looking back at that time in my life now, I can definitely see where my social media started to stray from who I really was. I didn’t want people to know I was suffering — I wanted them to admire me.
To get people to admire me, I tried my hardest to look like I was having the time of my life at university. In actuality, I was mostly in bed sleeping. To get people to think that, I posted a ton on Snapchat, only showing exciting parts of my life. My Instagram was full of selfies and photos of friends, making my followers think I was happy. On Facebook, I reposted a lot of news articles. I would comment on them to show people how into my program I was. I posted photos with big captions saying how much I loved my friends. I even fixed my blog and posted all the articles I wrote for first year to make it seem like I was published and successful.
My anxiety kept getting worse no matter how many fun pictures I posted on social media. I started smoking weed heavily and removed myself from my family and close friends. When the summer started, I was working at my cottage but my suicidal thoughts kept getting worse.
Social media told a different story. It made the impression that I was living the cottage dream. I posted snaps of me having fun at work and partying with a bunch of country boys. I posted Instagram pictures of me out on the lake and going out with friends.
None of it was real.
When second year came along, I was thinking about suicide every day. Only those who were around me saw how bad things were becoming. I ended up having to start medication because my depression got so bad I stopped going to classes. I stopped going to work and lost almost 50 pounds.
I let everyone who didn’t see me regularly think I was OK. If I was in bed for almost a complete day, I still managed to post photos on Instagram that were taken weeks prior. I sometimes posted Snapchats of me enjoying the day when I was actually curled up in my room, stoned.
After many long and scary months, I haven’t thought about suicide in a long time. I have taken time to reflect on my social media and how I want to be perceived. I am OK with not being OK. I am comfortable in sharing my insecurities because in the world of social media, hiding your true self is mentally draining.
Bettering my social media didn’t better me. Once I started realizing how big of a lie my social media was, I changed. I only post things for myself now. My social media portrays the real me and now I’m in control of my mental health. I don’t allow myself to look for pleasure in an idealistic version of myself.
It isn’t easy and I have setbacks all the time. I still have a lot more bad days than good — but I am better. My social media no longer portrays a Julia I don’t recognize.