Madison Holleran, a 19-year-old varsity athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, jumped to her death in Philadelphia last January in an act that shocked her family and community. I might not known about this except for Kate Fagan, who wrote the article about it for ESPN has a younger sister who played basketball with my daughter.
Fagan wrote about the very filtered life Madison led on Instagram, then launched a social campaign under the hashtag #LifeUnfiltered to start a conversation around mental illness and the ways people filter their experiences - both online and off.
Fagan writes: “Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self. Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others' filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered.”
On Tuesdays I usually post my “Full of Grace” list of things I am particularly grateful for. This exercise has been very useful to me in my PTSD recovery, and I'm truly grateful for the abundance in my life. However, I am also aware that these posts might present a much rosier life than what my day to day existence actually is. As Madison once posted "Even people you think are perfect are going through something difficult."
And so today I will highlight some of the more difficult things currently happening in my life:
My current Town Supervisor will not be running for re-election this year which means, no matter what, there will be a change in administration. If the Democrats win, they have already told me they want to restructure the department and if I wanted to go back to working full-time the job would be mine. But I really don’t want to go back to full-time. If the Republicans win I am most certainly out of a job as I am too aligned with the Democrats. This is not as financially devastating as it could be as I am already collecting my pension and have paid health insurance for life. However, it is still a big financial hit I was not yet prepared to take. Mostly though it is the fear of closing a door that I am not ready to close just yet. And leaving a work family to whom I have become very attached. This job has kept me centered and balanced. I’m not sure what will happen if/when it ends.
My sister fears she is losing her mind. At first I thought it was just mindlessness because she is so busy. It seemed natural that some things would start to fall through the cracks. But it has grown into something much more frightening. She now often calls me crying because she is forgetting very important things and she knows that something is happening that she cannot control. Often she calls and forgets why she called. And then she starts to cry because of that. I have no idea what to do.
Our youngest daughter seems on the verge of screwing up a well laid out plan for her career to go and live with her boyfriend who is moving out of state. Martha and I have lost many nights sleep about this and wind up arguing with each other when really we are just angry at Peachie who is so defensive about the whole thing she is almost impossible to live with. And every time that tension bubbles up, her response is “this is why I don’t want to live here anymore!” At this point I wish I could go live with someone else out of state. My once very happy home is filled with stress and everyone walking on eggshells.
PTSD - I have come a long, long way is healing from trauma and PTSD. But I am finding that all this tension and change and the unknown is making me very shaky. Which makes me wonder how much I have really healed as much as I think I have. It is a endless circle of anxiety which feeds more anxiety which feeds more anxiety . . . . I am sometimes very scared.
I knew a woman who created quite a social media image of herself. She tried to project a woman of strength and morality and compassion. She called herself “a socialist for Jesus.” But the more I got to know her, the more I realized that it was all smoke and mirrors. Basically she was a bully who demanded people treat her one way while she treated others with contempt and ridicule. It was a hard but important lesson for me in just how false on-line salesmanship and image making can be.
I do not want to present a false image of my life here.
Focusing on gratitude helps me avoid falling into the rabbit holes I used to live in. My former experiences of poverty and trauma and cancer has made me acutely aware of how precious life is and just how much I have to appreciate. I have written extensively in the past about my battle with PTSD and trauma and cancer. It has not all been rosy and some of it has been like crawling through glass. But lately it seems that I only write about the good things.
And so I just wanted to open the other side for a bit. Am I extraordinarily grateful for the abundance and love in my life? Yes I am. And I practice mindful gratitude every day. But is that my whole life? Not by a long shot. I don’t want to present a fantasy image of my life, nor do I want to wallow in the hardships and failures. It is a difficult balance to achieve in the internet world, I think.