I’ve decided to write another post about the state of my mental health, because nothing breaks up a party like saying, “How are you?” and having someone reply with, “Well, my therapist thinks we’re doing important work, but I’m still considering psychopharmaceuticals.”
For the record, I think “psychopharmaceuticals” is the longest word I’ve ever used in this blog.
Some things are better these days. I’m slowly learning to behave like a grown up when it comes to dealing with the past. I’ve spoken recently to other people about some things that I’d managed to keep to myself for decades, and taking the padlock off my memory hoard has been lots of fun, I tell ya. Whee! (I kid. It’s usually awful in the short term.)
However. Just yesterday I was bellyaching about my emotional flatness, numbness, distractibility, difficulty being present and engaged with my family, my work, or really, much of anything. I know that this sounds like more of the same from me. Here’s Sharon, still in a slump. But yesterday I acknowledged, out loud, that there is something I use to help keep me numbed and distracted. Something that gives me some satisfying buzzes but that also produces precipitous drops. It’s my drug of choice.
It’s this darned internet.
I’m not trying to make a point or inspire people to put down their electronic devices and live their best lives now. I’m just being honest about myself, because – as I recently told a friend – if I can’t be perfect (rats!), maybe the next best option is to be truthful about how imperfect I am. And there’s something spectacularly imperfect about the way I’m using the internet these days. I’m staving off the need to make decisions and complete tasks and deal with difficult emotions by sitting in front of this screen – oh, beloved screen on my dear, precious laptop – until my eyes burn and my brain is shot and whatever was bothering me has been pushed off to another day.
I’ve been feeling guilty about this for months now. No joke. Not guilty enough to do anything differently, obviously – just guilty enough to spend more time reading articles in my Feedly and chatting on Facebook until exhaustion makes the guilt fade.
I am not an internet hater or a social media mocker. I read some great blogs and news sites, and (I sheepishly confess) I pride myself on staying in the know on my pet topics. I write at this blog because I love writing as I love few other activities, and I feel good about many of the blog posts I’ve written. As for social media, I have the most delightful group of Facebook friends, people who endlessly entertain, challenge and encourage me. So, yay internet!
This post is not about “internet addiction” as a social problem. It’s much more self-absorbed than that.
Because I live with people who can’t get my attention. Above all, this bothers me. Poor Bee, in particular, is so hungry for me to spend focused time with her; and yet the drive to escape the here and now makes me inaccessible. “Just a minute, let me finish reading this article. Hold on, I’m writing something. Wait, I have to get this posted. Someone asked me a question on Facebook; give me five minutes.” And so it goes. I’m sure I’m not really trying to avoid Bee, though, or the other people who love me. I’m trying to avoid myself. And the internet works well for that. It’s a bottomless pit of information to be acquired, humor to be enjoyed, conversations to be had with people who are wonderful, don’t misunderstand me, but they need me less than my children. If I stopped posting on Facebook tomorrow life would go on quite well for my 415 Facebook friends. My inability to focus and talk to my family is a more significant problem.
I think you get the point.
I’m going to try to do something hard. I’m going to try to significantly cut back on my internet usage for a while. Yep, that’s how pitiful things have gotten – getting on the computer less frequently sounds like a terrifying, arduous trial. The thought of going all day without checking Facebook or reading some blog posts makes my heart race and my stomach hurt. I’m jonesing already, and I haven’t even left the internet yet.
So I’m going to quit blogging for a while, just for a break. And I’m going to stop checking my Feedly more than once a day. I can’t leave-leave Facebook, really. I receive and send practical information over Facebook these days. But I think, perhaps, I can limit my Facebook time to early morning and late at night. I hope I’ll be able to relax those restrictions eventually, and use the internet like the great resource that it is, rather than as a narcotic.
The question is, how am I going to control what has become a compulsive behavior? Good question. I don’t know yet. I’ve made a number of resolutions that haven’t amounted to anything. I suppose I’m hoping that talking about this openly will put my feet to the fire.
I have other hopes, as well. I hope that less time on the computer will mean more time paying attention to the people around me, and more productivity in areas I’ve been neglecting. I also hope that I’ll be forced to figure out what I’m trying to avoid, what uncomfortable feelings or ideas I’m desperately trying to keep at bay. I think I need my crutch yanked out from under me even if it means I fall flat on my face.
There’s no big ending to this post, beyond wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I won’t be posting here anymore in 2013, although I do reserve the right to reply to comments (if there are any). And I ask for grace from my Facebook friends if my cutting back seems a little three-steps-forward, two-steps-back. Some people die trying to kick drugs cold turkey. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
I’m not sure when I’ll resume blogging. Maybe in a month? I’ll be looking for some sort of sign that I’m ready, whatever that might be. If all goes as planned, you may be spared another uncomfortable post about how out of whack I am. That’s my hope. And hoping is one thing that I still do well.
Addendum: A word of praise for my very private husband who never tells me I should be more private, too. I worry sometimes that I’ll embarrass him by exposing to the world what his wife is really like. And maybe I do, but if so, he never shows it. He’s a gift from God, that guy.