I must apologise that it has been notably quiet on the blog of late. I could make all sorts of excuses as to why that is, but the fact is I simply haven't felt like sharing much of what has been in my head. The last 18 months have thrown so much at me that I've been in a bit of a mental maelstrom, and I don't feel that I write well when I am in the wrong mindset.
This, however, has put me in something of a dilemma, particularly in view of the subject matter of this post, as it makes me guilty of the very crime I'm about to discuss! What a hypocrite! 🙈
My paid work with adults involves a lot of psychological support provided alongside the physical training, and I have also recently started working with young people providing support to their mental health. What is strikingly prominent across all age groups is the effects of social media on people's mindsets. We have become a culture of constant comparison, and the problem is that we are often comparing ourselves to an airbrushed and edited pseudo-reality.
Ever actually seen someone that looks like they look on the glossy pages of a magazine? I'll wager your best response would be 'not exactly...'
Ever seen a movie trailer and been certain it was going to be a great film, only to find that the small clips within the trailer were literally the only good bits of the film? 100 or so minutes of movie, with only about 3 total minutes of greatness, and 97 or so minutes of naff...? I've seen a few, I can tell you!
Social media does this to our whole lives!
This was brought glaringly into focus a few weeks ago when I met up with a friend for lunch. Said friend had been away on an activity weekend the previous week. Her photos showed images of the fun she and her other friends had had, and the accompanying post spoke of the great time that had been had by all... Yet when I spoke to her about it, she laughed, shrugged and said "What a waste of a weekend! I wish I hadn't gone as it didn't live up to expectations..." and went on to recite a number of reasons why it wasn't an experience she wished to repeat in a hurry. Where was that on her social pages??! 😂 🙈
It's something we all do with social media, to a point. It's very rare that we post the unsatisfying experiences, the mundane moments, or the un-photogenic times. Be honest, have you ever actually had the urge to post "Average day, got up, ate breakfast, went to work. Had a sandwich for lunch and drove home in the usual traffic at the usual time. Nipped into the gym for an average workout and had a fairly nice tea before collapsing in front of the TV..."? Nope... Didn't think so!
When we review our own news feeds we can easily see how our life can be perceived as a collection of amazing, inspiring, happy and news-reel-worthy moments. We are all, it would appear, living our best lives every single day.
Of course this is not the case, and in our best frames of mind, we can readily see this fact and accept it. But the problem occurs on those days, weeks or months when our mind is not at its best - when life is getting us down and maybe not going quite our way... That can be when the apparently constant barrage of 'great-life-y-ness' by our peers can really get us down.
In the good old days, we would visit friends in person and show them the photographs of a fun times once they had been developed, and would tell the friend about them as we went through them... If our friend was having a tough time, we would eschew the photos in lieu of a cuppa and a chat, or some other means of making them feel better (cake? 😁). The photos could wait until the friend was feeling better. Social media doesn't have any sensors to sense how our peers are feeling. It has no way to filter out all that joy of life from those who are struggling. It is left up to those of us who aren't feeling so great to remove ourselves from its influence for a while in order to gather ourselves... And we really aren't that good at doing it!
Some of my wiser friends actually delete the apps from their phone when things are going a bit tough mentally. Personally, I just try not to check in too often. But it can be a tough addiction to break and I often berate myself when I can sense that it is not doing me any good.
So, in the interest of balance, here is a summary of what hasn't really gone so well for me this year... Call it the un-abridged, un-airbrushed, un-cut summary!
I turn 50 this year... I'm not worried about the number, per se, but it has meant that, as a female of a certain age, my body has undergone a lot of changes over the last few years. Lockdown pounds are proving very tricky to shift, my digestion has slowed meaning I cannot eat great amounts in one go, my muscles have become stiff and tight, my sleep patterns have been messed around, and for the last 6 months my vitamin B12 levels have messed up leading to pernicious anaemia. I always hoped I would sail through peri-menopause and menopause without the need for intervention but I have had to admit 'defeat'. My B12 is now being supplemented, and I am on a low dose of HRT and I am starting to feel much better, but it is a long slow road back to fitness. I have acquired an extra stone of flab which I need to shift and my running fitness is at a 20 year low... Meaning that the one constant in my life, my best friend in times of need, the release from the day-to-day stresses, a good old run, has become a slog and has lost its pleasure. I could cry. In fact, every run I go on, I feel like crying as my body aches and strains to maintain even a slow pace over a short distance.
It is strange to have lost that relationship with something that has been a part of my life for so long. It mirrors a similar problem I have had with my own family, where relationships I held dear have been shown to be a sham, not at all what I thought they were. I have spent years trying to bolster relationships within my family, only to find that I have had to cut ties with certain family members due to their continued hostility towards me. It has been a tough couple of years! And that's before we mention the effects covid has had on my business, career, family and social life!
I am not writing to seek sympathy, however. My point is that life isn't always the bed of roses that a social news feed may have you believe. I have had it better than many, but I have had some very rough days and tough times over the last 18 months. I continue to pick myself up and push through days where I feel I am wading through treacle, mentally and/or physically. I have to trust that the good days will follow, because they normally do.
I've just come back from 11 days on holiday. 11 amazingly lovely days spent with Dory and Ellie. I've posted my pictures on social media, together with a post saying how lovely it was... But I didn't mention the 3 mile slog of a run Dory and I had when we got home... A run where we were horrendously slow, and I wanted to cry at my lack of fitness... But you know about it now, don't you?!
(oh, and we had ham salad for tea and are currently chilling before bed, doing nothing in particular... And that won't be going onto my social newsfeed either...!)
Keep it real, dear friends... And stay sane x x