Social Media, Depression,
And The Power of Community Support
The behaviors I’ve been seeing in the internet marketing community, the last week or two, are weighing very heavy on my heart because of the things I’m personally working on.
(I’ll reveal that closer to the end of this post, so keep reading!)
It has become clear that people don’t understand, that for MANY people, the battle with depression, (or any chronic painful medical condition) is an every day, clenched knuckles, grim-faced, bone weary, but very hidden fight.
And unless they are one of the fortunate but small percentage that gets substantial relief from medication or changes in life environment… that’s what they have to look forward to every day of their lives.
It’s not such a bad gig when friends stay at one’s side… but the truth is that most friends eventually give up on these individuals because they expect PROGRESS which simply may not be possible.
Major depression is just one of the health things I deal with and whether it’s a primary affliction or “simply” caused by so much of my physical health being problematic is very hard to say. But I can say that I know this first hand.
And that first-hand knowledge gives me some insights into how damaging some of the interactions I’ve seen on social media can be.
Something else, that I also know first hand, is that individuals in this position OFTEN seem to go from one crisis right into the next.
Whether it’s finances, relationships, health, finances (again!), health (again!), employment challenges, or feelings of abandonment, even the thing that seems like a “small setback” to you is a mountain for them.
Why? Because often they are spending every ounce of reserve they have to barely get by when things are stable… when things are unstable… there is SIMPLY NO RESERVES.
And… because these people know what it’s like to be alone, to be unloved, and to not be cared for… they often are the first people to give the only shirt they have off their back to someone they feel needs it more.
And that makes someone else’s crisis their crisis – which frustrates friends and family – but is actually one of the most humanistic and generous of traits.
This vacillation into crisis after crisis is often a repeating trend for those who are barely keeping their head above water.
And I hope that by verbalizing this, I can help you better understand your friends who are in such a situation.
Like others with chronic health conditions, they often don’t have enough “spoons” to handle anything more.
Do you know what spoons are? If you’re not familiar with spoon theory, then PLEASE read this: http://askkim.co/spoontheory
Depression has to be observed with the same respect, urgency, understanding, and awareness that one approaches a drowning swimmer with… only in this case, it’s rare to be able to give them a floatation device that can keep them afloat permanently.
(And if you deal with depression or chronic health issues yourself (ie. “not enough spoons”) then you have to be very careful not to use your own body as a flotation device and find yourself pulled under too. Which is NOT to say that you shouldn’t help when you can. Just to do so wisely. Please help. But do so sensibly.)
It’s not your fault and it’s not their fault. It’s just a product of how deep the water is that they swim in and their biochemistry being so miswired that they actually can’t see the world as you do.
Individuals in this situation need you.
Not for a day, a week, or a crisis… but for a lifeline for a lifetime.
And that’s a very heavy responsibility that causes the majority of friends to falter, flounder, lash out, rage quit, or just flat out run away from them.
On Facebook, especially within our niche communities, be they internet marketing, or animal rescue, or blogging, or hippies, we see these cascades of people in crisis and people responding, time and time again.
It is both the most magical – and the most tragic – thing that we often see on Facebook because it brings out the best and the worst responses.
And for every person that is DIRECTLY receiving a positive or negative comment as they go through crisis… dozens of others are watching, hurting in their hearts, feeling just like the drowning person, and WATCHING how the person gets treated.
In some cases, we are able to create small safety nets… groups such as “Persevere”, “Flying Blind Group” and even in some ways our private Adults only group, can provide safe havens.
But more often than not, people in crisis NEED every single connection they have, for the tiny chances that a small percentage of them will be able, willing, and waiting, to step in and help.
And that often means they NEED to leverage their newsfeed and “air their dirty laundry” in a way that means you sometimes see them emotionally naked down to their skivvies…
What they don’t need to be told is to “suck it up”, or that “that doesn’t belong on Facebook”, or “keep private things private”, or “why haven’t you released a product yet?” or dozens of other things that serve to remind them of their failures or to take them AWAY from the only lifeline (Facebook) they may have at that moment.
Don’t fear their meltdowns. Don’t run away. Your ability to be a pillar in the storm can save lives.
But it’s not easy I know. It gets tiresome. And the things you can do on certain days may not be what you can do on all days (because let’s face it, your life isn’t entirely full of rainbow unicorn farts either.) So don’t criticize yourself for that. And don’t let what you can’t do cause you to lash at THEM for making you feel overwhelmed or weak.
In the last couple weeks I’ve seen so much damage done:
* A friend told not to post her sexual health and drug use challenges on Facebook because people might judge… but she was drowning and had nowhere else to turn.
* A friend who was wildly suicidal told that because he couldn’t get his shit together his affirmation spouting anti-negativity friend couldn’t be his friend anymore
* A friend who has been in and out of crisis herself – taking on the crisis of a close family member and giving everything she has to help the family member fight for their life – told not to use her marketing connections to help raise funds because she had raised funds for her own mental health challenges recently.
* A friend who flat out lost his shit on Facebook and was spiraling wildly in the mad world of depression and potentially schizophrenia lashed at, yelled, at, and abandoned by a lot of his Facebook connections for having a meltdown where people could see it.
* ad nauseum…
And this makes me sad in a way that is hard to explain.
Both because there’s apparently too many humans and not enough humanity…
And because “there for the grace of God go I”…
“But Kim…,” I hear you saying… “your life isn’t the same sort of train wreck as the examples you used.”
My life looks more composed because I have fought my demons and my health since I was a LITTLE KID.
I’ve had a long time to find coping mechanisms that not only help me present a better face to the world, but help me to laugh even when I want to cry.
But even I have had my break downs here. Sometimes quite publicly and more commonly behind a privacy filter that I try to use to exclude those that aren’t worthy of seeing when I’m hurting.
(And sometimes I’ve misjudged and let people see things that they’ve punished me for and I’ve learned that they want social media to accept their own melt downs but won’t grant that to others so I have to filter them out.)
Most of the time though, I don’t put on a smiley face for you. I do it for me. I do it because it gives me the illusion of having the life of someone that is healthier than I am. I do it because it helps me not to dwell on my present health conditions. It gives me a glimpse into “normal” even if it means that attending a two-day conference severely negatively impacts my health for two or more weeks.
There’s a song called “Mama’s Broken Heart” (Miranda Lambert) that has some quotes that I think well define the fucked up societal standard of how we’re “supposed” to behave that goes all to hell when people have emotional hardships or biochemical medical disabilities.
“Don’t matter how you feel, only matters how you look.”
“Hide your crazy and start acting like a lady, cuz I raised you better, gotta keep it together”
“My mama came from a softer generation, where you bite your lip and get a grip, just to save a little face. “
“Powder your nose, paint your toes, line your lips and keep em closed. Cross your legs, dot your “I”s, and never let em see you cry.””
All of that is frankly brilliant (if challenging) advice when you are networking and making new connections and doing business. Because people are watching and people do judge.
However, Facebook is more than a networking event.
For many, it’s a combination of family, friends, and the only real lifeline they have.
It’s casual rather than corporate. It’s the coffee house, the pub, the bookstore, and the softball game all rolled into one.
And that often turns the business-normal “silent judgement” into judgement that passes from the “lips” of one person and onto dozens.
But the reason the situation has rattled me so much this week… even though it’s actually not uncommon is this…
I’ve personally found myself deeply in crisis again. Much to my annoyance.
Actually, I’m not annoyed. That’s a lot more emotions than the medication will allow me at this moment. But surprisingly “sad” is sneaking through my defenses.
As I prepare to come to you – my community – my friends and family and clients – with my hat in hand – to ask your financial support on something…
I can’t help but be affected by watching friends get blasted from different angles.
There’s a whole stack of reasons things are a mess for me at the moment and I don’t mind explaining but it’s not really the point of this post.
Feel free to ask questions below if you feel the need to know more. (Please don’t PM me as I don’t have the “spoons” to handle fiddy bajillion PMs today.)
I’m going to take my own advice from one of the most powerful blog posts to cross my blog EVER… http://just-ask-kim.com/gift-economy/
In keeping with the things I’ve been exploring… I’m going to ASK my community, friends, and clients for their financial support of the things I create.
Right here => http://just-ask-kim.com/fund/
People tell me that they value the work I do, the insights I bring, the information I share, and they help they receive… and this ASK will help make more of that possible.
I also think that this is going to address a huge problem that ALSO plagues interactions when a friend is hurting.
Friends (of someone with health issues) actually WANT to be supportive and able to help… and a lot of the time, a friend’s depression or health issues create this endless cycle of … “there’s nothing you can do to help”. Or there is nothing that will help in the long term.
In fact, some of my friends have nearly BEGGED me to GIVE THEM SOMETHING THEY CAN DO TO HELP.
It’s been slow going and I haven’t yet managed to get an “official launch” underway… but creation of things take “spoons” that I sometimes don’t have many of… and frankly, even with my big brass balls, it is actually very scary to take this risk.
(I’ll better edit these pages in the upcoming weeks and add more cool bonuses as the donation level gets to levels that will help make that happen.)
To put this trust in my community. To take this leap into the arms of people who value what I do.
But as part of my business re-structuring, it’s what I’m doing.
And I know that – just like with the haters – there are dozens of people who will watch me take this risk and they will see, from your responses, what it means to have built and nurtured a community that cares.
What it means to have built a “tribe”.
And I’m doing it even though it scares me. I’m doing it even though some people will show their true colors and take cheap shots at me.
I’m doing it even though I see all the trolls, assholes, and jerks who WON’T support THEIR friends.
I’m doing it because I know YOU are better than that.
I’m putting my faith in you.
Because I know you. I know that you are not one of them. I know that you will share the message and the love if I will only trust you and continue to use your help to help others.
(With plans that have already included gutting several exhausting portions of my business… and plans to build out in the direction that those who contribute want to see more of!)
And in case you’re curious where you can learn more and get involved with exactly WHAT I’m asking…
You can go here: http://just-ask-kim.com/fund/
I come to you not in desperation but in faith. Not in embarrassment but in gratitude.
For I am blessed by each and every one of you.
PS: And I hope that even if supporting the community isn’t your thing at this time… that you will more closely consider the intricate value of your love, concern, and friendship, for those going through rough times or rough health challenges in their life.