As I have written before, I find the world of Twitter fascinating, with amazing capacity to bring previously disconnected people together, but with some dark sides too. A while ago, K told me that L thought K was cyberstalking her by reading her Twitter account. I asked for clarification that this was a Twitter account which was unprotected and therefore open to the hundreds of millions of Internet users, but it was somehow something her twin sister should never read? A stony silence ensued. This is a feature of 21 century communication – a teenager will tell the world her innermost thoughts, but keep them from her loved ones.
This isn’t about L, of course. I do the same, many of us do. My Twitter timeline seems like a confessional box that thousands of us enter, believing to be empty. In any 24 hour period, I would imagine I could count tales of self-harm, self-loathing, thoughts of suicide, hatred of fat, isolation and despair, all from people who tell the Twitter world, but I would bet good money, if a mother, brother, partner friend entered the room and asked how they were, the response would be Fine. Ok. No, really. This isn’t a modern day phenomenon, keeping a stiff upper lip is a source of national pride, we Keep Calm and Carry On, because we’re British. Or women. Or y’know, normal. Not one of those depressed mentalists with weird problems. God no, we’re really fine. Honestly.
This morning, I look at L’s twitter account* and discover that the young woman who left home this morning telling me she was ok, felt she just wanted to cry and couldn’t do this, not today. I stare at these words on my iPad and imagine her typing them out in the cab on the way to her ED unit. I am really sad for her, but oddly curious about what this means. Does it help to send a cry for help to the world but not tell your mum how bad you feel? Does it keep those feelings contained, but not suppressed entirely? Is it easier to ask for help this way, like being “found out”, as if we had been lamenting out loud and accidentally overheard? Does it remove the responsibility of asking for help, of asking a real person and taking responsibility for real emotions that we feel right here and right now? And would that mean that dealing with those feelings would be worse than just experiencing them?
My own blog has a similar function. When I write of the pain of watching L go through this illness, it saves me telling someone how I feel and to be honest, that really helps. It isn’t avoidance, it allows me to put those feelings on this page and share them with people I know, as well as people I don’t. It compartmentalises them and then I can go into a different part of my life and do the other things I need to. It helps me think about those feelings, sometimes I start a blog about o e thing and by the time I have finished spilling my innermost thoughts on a page, I have ended up some where else altogether. But I always feel better and I often work out what to do next. Best of all are the times of writing about something positive, of those moments set in diamonds that we should cling to in the dark and stormy days. But those are the experiences and thoughts I share willingly with others.
The sad reality is, it has always been easier for those lonely, depressed or in pain to speak to someone or something other than those close. Whether through prayer or confession, through anonymous self help groups, Samaritans or “experts” with qualifications, we have always struggled to share our darkest thoughts with those who love us. In protecting them from the pain, we invite more for ourselves and while that may make us feel selfless, it results in our loved ones feeling excluded, and often, just as lonely. Please L, next time things feel so dark, perhaps try telling me as well as Twitter.
*Yes, L, I read your Twitter account. I think you are funny and clever in many of your tweets. We also both know you read this blog. I’m happy most of the time to keep up the pretence. But it is a pretence. I know you don’t want me to know you read this blog because you think I might edit my thoughts. I promise I won’t. Mum x