By Lucy Harbron - 22:11

Despite working in social media, reading all the books and listening to all the podcasts; I still fall for the Instagram lie. Even though I know it’s not true, from a quick scroll you can easily convince yourself that everyone else has perfect skin, more money, and better mental health than you. It’s the cliché that Instagram is our highlight reel, we don’t post pictures of ourselves ill or crying, and I understand. There’s something beautiful about a curated feed, filled with memories of the best times and easily deletable if the image goes sour. And at the worst of times; there’s something so comforting about being able to hide it all so easily. It’s a deception we’re all guilty of.

One of my favourite influences, bridging this gap between appearance and emotion, is Caroline Calloway. She recently did this thing where each Instagram story had 2 captions; what she would usually caption it, and how she actually felt. The prior shared knowledge and sentiments of joy claiming her day was beautiful, she loved her outfit etc, but the later told a different story of her social anxiety at her events and fears that no one care about her nor her content. We always choose the prior. Not only do we worry that no one constantly wants to hear our worries and sadnesses, but we also don’t constantly want to write them. But I worry that I haven’t been writing them enough.

I’ve been considering it a lot recently. Each time I fall for the façade and believe a person must be wholly happy and fine because their Instagram is all sunshine, I worry more and more about my own online presence.

This year has undoubtedly been the worst mental health year of my life, but my Instagram doesn’t show that, at all. Though I don’t claim to be an influencer, at all, bumping into girls in clubs that tell me they like my blog or Instagram has become increasingly uncomfortable as I’ve talked less, felt a widening distance between myself and my screen self.

Since last mental health awareness week, in May 2018, to now I’ve struggled a lot with depression, anxiety, relationships, body image; a whole host of things. But the opportunities and achievements of the year have painted over it all as burlesque and internships hid the bad stuff behind it;

During my time in London, I was eating too little and probably drinking too much. I moved to London 10 days after a breakup and I simply didn’t deal with it. I spent the summer having fun, but severely suppressing my feelings and spiraling into self-destruction, bringing up old habits as I suffered a mental health crisis but wasn’t willing to admit it. Without friends looking after me and my job to keep me busy, I probably wouldn’t have survived.

My idyllic flat shots hid my crippling fear of being alone and terrible loneliness when I moved back to Sheffield, leading me to give far too much energy to bad friendships and bad relationships and not enough to myself and my recovery.

Around this time was when I felt that I had suddenly gained LOADS of weight as my dysmorphia constantly told me I looked huge. I almost pulled out of every single burlesque show this year; hating my body, hating the toxic environment I’d found myself in, and over-sexualising myself as a way to protect my feelings from being hurt again. I hallowed myself out and only cared about my appearance, despite preaching about burlesque being an act of self-love and body confidence.

Mantras became a joke. Each week I’d proclaim a new dedication to recovery and an end to my self-destructive habits, each week I’d fail to take it seriously. Around this point was also when I decided to come off my anti-depressants, feeling like they were doing nothing but numbing me, I also got dumped by a boy and a friend, partly due to my denial of how much I was struggling.

I spent my New Years Eve alone, writing this positive blog post half an hour after crying in the bath, terrified of my depression following me into 2019.

I bleached my hair in a panic, needing a big change to try to snap myself out of my rut (the rut being depression AKA a thing that no amount of hair dye can just pull you out of). It was also around this time that I attempted to get therapy and got turned away by my uni counseling service.

My birthday was scary and sad. As much as I wrote about harnessing change and being excited about the future, I wasn’t and I’m still struggling with it. A year ago my life was totally different, and I’m terrified for what might happen next with the bad voice in my head telling me it will only get worse and holding onto every bad word, every bad thing that’s happened in the last 365 days.

I’m without a doubt the most sensitive person I’ve ever met. I see everything as a reflection on myself, beat myself up over ridiculously minor failings, hold onto everything too tightly. Even though I share my achievement online, I can’t celebrate myself. I’m never satisfied with myself, always finding something to criticise or be sad about as my depression whispers in my ear that I don’t deserve the good.

Instagram is a double-ended sword. While it’s nice to scroll back and look through the achievements of the year, it hides the reality, creating an unrealistic image for both followers and myself as I compare myself to this edited and crafted image of me. I’m not saying I lie or that this year has been awful, but that I’ve simply struggled with my mental health as so so many others do. And maybe I should talk about it more rather than feeling guilty for being unable to take an image of perfect recovery because it simply doesn’t exist, especially not here. Behind every single image and caption is the reality of life, regardless of mental illness. No one is always all good so check on your friends, check on yourself, regardless of how great their lives are looking online and make sure you’re not hiding your struggles behind VSCO filters.

In this last week I have practiced self-care, I’ve looked after myself, fed myself, journaled and meditated, but then I’ve spent the last half an hour struggling over which picture to post, zooming in and out on my face and over-analysing. From May last year, I have made a lot of progress. I feel better, but that doesn’t mean I am better or that I ever will be. Recovery is the good and the bad just as life is the good and the bad, Instagram is only the good. I must remember that. I must keep trying to find the balance.

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