Updated: Jun 9, 2020
This post is slightly hypocritical as I have an instagram (IG) banner at the top of my website. I remember once when my kiddo was teeny, my mother in law commented how perfect he was, so smiley and "happy all the time!" So I immediately sent her photos and videos of him ugly crying!
He gets that from me. I'm an ugly crier. I've always wished I could be one of those movie star criers. You know the kind. An up close shot of my tear filled eye, and then I blink and one tear slowly drops stunningly down my perfect milk complexion. Uh....no. My face gets bright red and super blotchy and I sob with a terrifying grimace with literally NO tears coming out my eyes. Seriously.
I'm an ugly crier...Seriously.
My point is: don't believe what is on your screen! Not on your movie screen, not on your tv, and not on your phone! People ugly cry. People who post glorious pictures of beautiful rainbow colored plant-based healthy meals also secretly stand in front of the fridge and pantry for minutes at a time, staring at the shelves and wondering what to stuff their face with. Oh yes. I am completely referring to myself. I made a beautiful salad for dinner tonight. But I also grabbed animal crackers from the closet and stuffed 3 of them quickly into my mouth so my kiddo wouldn't see when I went back in to join him in the bathroom while he was in the tub.
I didn't instagram THAT though, did I?!
My super stellar mommy friend, who is also my unpaid, anonymous Creative Director pointed out recently that when people are struggling, it can be exponentially more difficult to scroll through those IG and FB feeds, feeling crappier and crappier about themselves as they see the happy friends showing off professional family photos with their kids, the cousins taking beach vacations, and the college classmates moving into their new, luxury homes. I get really jealous sometimes. And angry. I get angry when people show photos of their weekend trips with their families, when I have to be home by 2 pm on a Saturday to give my mom a bed bath.
I posted tons of pictures from Italy on my feeds recently. I'm sure people were jealous. And I'm genuinely sorry for that. Someone out there on my friend list is likely too broke to go to Italy. Another friend isn't officially a citizen yet so can't get her passport or leave the country until she knows she can get back in. The long story for me is that I worked for months in trade for that trip, and it was my first time doing something for myself in years. My husband and I still haven't been on our honeymoon, 3 and a half years after our wedding. The truth is we are caregivers for a mom dying from Alzheimer's and a 3 year old. We can't go on trips. We can't take vacations. We can't even go camping. We took our son camping in the backyard this summer because we couldn't be gone overnight because of my mom's medications and bed baths and incontinence diaper needs.
But that's not what everyone sees on Facebook, is it? They see the pictures of Italy.
I try to be really open and honest about our journey with Alzheimer's and caregiving. It's brutal and we struggle. But perhaps I could be more open about the struggles of raising a toddler too. And how even a happy marriage is really tough sometimes. And the struggles of being so depressed that I'm grieving my mother and her disease for 6 years now that I emotionally eat almost every night, and so I can't lose any baby weight when I'm shoving vegan ice cream in my pie hole at 10 o'clock every night.
Please know that you are not alone. If you need Facebook fasts, and social media hiatuses, take them. It is sometimes a great way to stay connected to friends. It is an absolutely wonderful way to raise money for worthwhile causes. But it can also be devastating to your psyche and mental health when you compare yourself, your life, and your kids to fairy tales!
I will tell you firsthand that when I was going through my divorce from my first husband, my feeds were FULL of happy photos, serene photos, and gushings about how great my life, my home, my job, and my marriage were. It was all my trying to clutch to some sort of normal reality when everything was falling apart. I just downloaded these from Facebook. Check this out:
Top Left: This was rock bottom. I had just moved back to my parents' house at the age of 32, popping pills, marriage obliterated, unemployed, crying daily, and sleeping until noon... Top Middle: A fun happy shot from the last professional play I did, just before I resigned on the day I signed divorce papers, while my colleagues screamed in my face, and I burned so many bridges no one spoke to me for three years... Top Right: Me bragging about how serene I was by the river, while the sunglasses cover up how I can't stop crying because I moved out of my home with one suitcase, and my life is falling apart. Bottom Left: "Oh Stef you're so pretty" say all my friends of this shot where I'm in costume and stage makeup; after the curtain falls, I'll go home, stare at all the pills in my medicine cabinet for an hour and will myself to walk away and instead cry myself to sleep. Bottom Middle: I actually enjoyed my minimum wage coffee shop barista job even when people spoke to me with contempt and treated me like dirt because I was so beneath them, pouring their coffee when I wanted to scream in their face "Back off! I have a college education and used to run a million dollar company!" Bottom Right: One of the many happy photos from my California vacation with my now husband - but right before this trip, I gave him an ultimatum and threatened to not board the plane, nearly ending our relationship forever...
So. The reality behind the filtered photos and "in real life" hashtags isn't what everyone thinks. Not on my feed. Not on yours. Not on anyone's.
Please promise me that the next time you see a photo online that you are jealous of. Stop. Take a deep breath. Mentally list off three things that you are grateful for. Take another deep breath. Remember that no one is perfect. Remember that we all have good days, we all have bad. We all have joy, we all have sorrow. And most importantly, we all are loved. Yes, you too.