A little over a month ago, my PTSD was triggered, and everything I have ever known was thrown around yet again. With PTSD, everything you think you know about yourself is put to question. Everything you know about the world is questioned. And even with a solid foundation, like my own, you might be lost. I was very lost, my core of foundations shaken up by the reality that this will keep happening. In an instant I was so close to a 4 I could feel it (check out our our Suicidality series to learn what a 4 is like). I had no idea how to get through this, despite having gone through it before.
Over the last couple of months I had started relying on social media to communicate with the world, to spread awareness, inform the world that I was still alive and well or not, and receive support despite my hectic travel schedule. It was very healthy for me.
But at the same time, I'd use it to fill a void in my life. It'd be the thing I turned to when conversations slowed down, or I was alone and waiting for dinner, or before going to bed. I found myself scrolling through hundreds of stories at a time, and feeling hopeless. Normally, seeing those stories would drive me to write, but because of everything going on, I wasn't in a place where I could take pain and recycle it into something productive. Pain was just pain, and I became stuck in it.
Furthermore, social media is not viewed as a healthy thing, and you're judged for being on it so much. I use it for so many different things, and as an anchor to staying alive, but most people just see it as a waste of time, as a 'Millennial' thing.
Because of these three main reasons, needing time away from the noise and spending time with myself, and staying away from something that has been highly stigmatized, I moved away from ALL social media. I deleted the apps on my phone, and I never had to go on during my days or nights.
At first, the plan was to stay away for a few days, to regain a part of myself and come back on to continue raising awareness on social media. But everyday, I found myself making excuses to stay away a little bit longer. Just another few days, I'd tell myself, or maybe Friday, or Christmas, or New Years, or when I get back. And here we are, nearly a month later, and I couldn't be happier with my decision to continue to support myself by staying away from Social Media.
Although I have become somewhat disconnected, I have been able to focus on my present. With PTSD, living in the past is rarely a choice, but as difficult as focusing on the present was, the real challenge was focusing on my present. With social media, it's easy to get caught up with, not only our own pasts, but also, the past, present, and futures of others. There's so much trauma out there, and as the name implies, we're feeding on it throughout our days. Think about it this way: even eating Organic food throughout the day, nonstop, is not healthy for you. So imagine what it's like feeding on pain and trauma, all the time.
Now, I am finally coming back, but things are not exactly the same. During my month away from social media I realized that, as good as it is, I have failed to set boundaries for it. I would get on social media during any and all times of the day and night to make sure the world was still spinning. This has the capacity to disrupt parts of my life. There's a reason it's called a news feed. We're feeding off of what's out there. If you really think about it, we have boundaries with the way we feed. We have a time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and sometimes we'll snack along the way. But I know better than to eat a full meal right before going to bed, or during the middle of the night.
So, today I'm rejoining the world of social media, but I have decided to set some boundaries to make sure it does not negatively affect me in the future. Social Media, like everything else, can be healthy or unhealthy. The important things to remember are to be intentional, purposeful, and reflective throughout its use.
Here are some of the steps I'm taking to set boundaries for myself:
- Setting specific times to post on social media, and other times to feed.
- Having set times throughout the day without social media.
- Taking one day a week off from social media for each platform, and one day away from them all.
- Setting reflection and Journaling times after social media feeding times.
- Setting a minimum and a maximum time to feed. For me it'll be 15 minutes at a time, twice a day.
- Only have one social media app on my phone.
- Forgiving myself when I don't follow my own rules. Exceptions will happen, and the most supportive thing for me is to be kind to myself.
I don't know if coming back is the best thing for me, and I don't know if going away in the first place was healthy, but I am doing my best to take care of me, and that's what matters. These seven guidelines will change along the way, but, from my experience, being intentional about healing is always a good thing.
Thank you for going on this journey with me, I wouldn't be here without the love and support you've shown me.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Co-Founder of Muslim Community Link, An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of Life in My Days. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on twitter, instagram or facebook.