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Beating Depression in an Online Fishbowl | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Beating Depression in an Online Fishbowl

When you’re known as the encourager, the one who empowers others, what do you do when you’re discouraged and need help yourself? If you’re highly visible with a voice upon which others rely, how do you beat depression?

This was hammered home this weekend when a great man, one who often inspired me, lost his battle with depression and shocked many who thought of him as a dear friend.

I don’t know what it’s like to be followed by over 100,000 people on Twitter. But I do know what it’s like to face personal crises while living in a transparent fishbowl. Ten years ago, our home and business burned. The business was only a year old. Most new businesses fold within 5 years. I wager businesses that burn a year after opening have a higher failure rate.

We survived.

At a personal cost. In the months and years it took us to rebuild our home, business, and customer base, the pressure got to me. At the same time, in those dark days of email, I had a nickname – EmailMary. My job was to send informational emails to a homeschool community that grew to cover a Tri-State area, with hundreds of families. I was the lifeline, the encourager.

At the height of that visibility, when I met new homeschoolers, I only told them my first name because if they knew I was “Email Mary,” I would be treated differently. I just wanted to be Mary, the wife and mom of 2 kids I adored.

It grew harder after we rebuilt and recovered, when I sank into depression born of months and years of keeping myself together to take care of everyone else. Highly visible people don’t get time or space to be vulnerable.

Fishbowl visibility made the pressure of depression worse. At my worst moment, I ended up overwhelmed by stress, sobbing in a parking lot. My husband and a few trusted friends found me and got me through those darkest moments.

I didn’t realize I was experiencing early pressure in the Online Fishbowl we now call social media.  If bad things happen and you’re visible, how can you beat depression? These are things that helped me:

  1. Get help. Talk to a professional.
  2. Select the right friends to talk to. Confide in trusted friends and develop a short list of people to call if you get overwhelmed. If you can’t reach one person, go to the next on the list.
  3. Seek a higher purpose. It is only by the grace of God I made it to the light at the end of the depression tunnel.
  4. Reduce negative relationships. Limit contact with those who are negative takers. As a highly visible person, I get an annual poison keyboard email hate letter from a woman. Nevertheless, I occasionally need to see what else she needs to tell me. So we made an email rule that when she writes her annual diatribe, it’s automatically forwarded to my husband and deleted from my inbox before I see it. She gets her anger off her chest, my husband tells me what I need to know, and I can smile cheerfully at her when we meet in public because I’ve never read her destructive, venomous words.
  5. Set small, short term goals. Then set bigger ones. When you meet a small goal, it can give you a feeling of control over your situation, or at least your response to it.
  6. Get out of the fishbowl. Spend a little less time in the online fishbowl and a little more time in real life with people who love you and make you laugh. Make time for yourself. You deserve to be a priority.
  7. It’s ok to mention it’s a tough day. It isn’t human to have to pretend all the time that life is wonderful. Doing so on social media will make your heart a pressure cooker that will one day blow. Maybe you don’t need to post everything bad, but it’s ok to sometimes tweet or note that milk got spilled or things weren’t perfect.

And for those of us who engage and converse with people all over the planet on a regular basis, we can all use a reminder that there’s a person behind every keyboard. Tell people every day that they matter and how they matter to you. A little compassion goes a long way when someone is hurting.

Please, please remember that no matter how dark today is, we’re never alone, and we can have hope for a better tomorrow.


One Response to “Beating Depression in an Online Fishbowl”

  1. Martha Garrett aka SwitchingGranny September 6, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    Intimately powerful post Mary! Thank-you.

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