In July of 2011 I finally quit smoking. It should have been easy. At various points in my life I had given up crystal meth, smoking weed, getting drunk, promiscuity, and numerous other destructive habits. Each of them I set down, walked away from, and never looked back towards. Yet, something about laying down this final idol broke me in a way nothing else had. So began my slide into depression and anxiety so crippling I could hardly function.
I cried in front of clients, lost my temper constantly with my poor children, and spent most of the time I wasn’t at work curled up in the fetal position in the safe space between my bed and the wall. I was a mess.
The little voice in the back of my head was a broken record. End it. This is too hard. Life will always be like this.
I clung desperately to the edge of sanity by reading the Psalms. I would immerse myself in the Psalms for hours, copying out huge chunks of text in a spiral bound notebook. Over the next four years I copied the same scriptures out dozens of times. King David, who had once seemed melodramatic and arrogant to me, became my closest companion. At times, he seemed my only friend.
Because that was another thing my depression stole from me. My friends. I, who had always been so social, so driven towards relationship and conversation, felt totally isolated in my darkness.
In one sense, I was literally alone. I had recently moved to a new city where I knew practically no one. I had left my little island where I grew up, the friends I’d known since high school, and the loving little church that had accepted a mouthy single mom and her two different colored children without a murmur. I desperately wanted a friend yet, when placed in social situations my anxiety would become crippling, the tears would start flowing, and I’d have to find a way out. My isolation grew.
Even my old friends were little comfort. I couldn’t call them because inevitably they would innocently ask how I was doing and I would lose it. How many times can you try to put a broken woman back together before you give her up as a lost cause? So I did not call.
Still I craved conversation. I longed for social situations. I desperately needed my friends.
So I turned to Facebook.
Now, I have heard criticisms of Facebook friendships. They’re artificial, superficial, and trivial. They allow a person to highlight only the 5% of their life that’s worthy of publicity, hide the rest, and present a mask of themselves, hindering real relationship. Social media is no substitute for genuine human interaction.
There is truth in all those arguments.
But Facebook was just what I needed at that dark point. I had access to a pool of friends that spanned every life stage I had been through. There was always someone on to “like” or comment on my post, always someone listening. Somehow the public nature of Facebook felt safer than the intimacy of real conversations and I became brave enough to hint there about the struggles I was going through. Perhaps best of all, Facebook allowed me to interact without revealing how hard I was crying as I typed. I could chat with people, love people, confess and comfort without the tears that had become my constant companion tainting the moment.
Five years later, I’m not where I was. I feel whole, strong, and surrounded by loved ones. I still enjoy the Psalms and Facebook regularly but neither is a lifeline. The voices stopped whispering their lies in the back of my mind. I’m walking in the light, praise God!
Still, my love of Facebook remains. Almost every day, a memory will pop up on my timeline from that period complete with a string of comments, reminding me that even at my loneliest I was never alone.
On more than one occasion I’ve had a friend tell me how so-and-so, someone they know but a mere acquaintance of mine, just adores me. I’ll wonder why. “But!” I’ll exclaim, “So-and-so hardly knows me!”
“Oh,” they always reply, “They follow you on Facebook.”
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