What You See on Social Media Isn’t Reality

This should be a mantra that I repeat to myself over and over every morning in front of the mirror. That, or I should really cut down on my use of social media.

It really can have such a damaging impact on someone.

When we use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc, we are choosing what we let the world see of us.

Sure I do like to have a moan or a rant from time to time, but aside from that, it’s happy family outings, showing off cute things my child made at school, new purchases I want to show off and so on.

I couldn’t tell you the number of times per day I scroll mindlessly through my social media – jealous. Jealous that people get to go on holiday.

Jealous that people have great jobs. Jealous that people have able-bodied children that can enjoy anything and everything. Jealous of people making pregnancy and birth look easy.

The aftermath of that is the guilt I feel – these people are people I like and care about. I want them to have amazing happy lives… I want that too…

And I’m not sure if what I am seeing is a true reflection of their lives or not. It’s all very confusing.

Jealousy is such an ugly emotion. I repulse myself when I let the bitterness take over.

I try to shrug it off as much as I can, but one look out of the window at a happy family walking their dog can set it off again. The ugly green monster I never invited round.

People often say to me: “You always look so nice.” Now I’m not saying that as a humble brag… what people mean is… most days (not all) I try to do my makeup and hair and not wear my scruffs.

Obviously, I don’t post pictures of me when my eyes are puffy from crying and I’m covered in formula, bleach-stained clothes and tatty hair.

By taking a little care of myself every day I’m basically trying to convey to the world that this is a person who is coping… just like everyone else.

This is a girl who wants to be taken seriously by professionals and doesn’t feel that she can create that impression by wearing her 15 year old jogging pants (that have never once been used for jogging.)

Usually, those pictures are accompanied by a lighting effect or filter to try and reduce the eye bag situation.

4 days ago my daughter had surgery in a hospital far from home.

The hospital was actual perfection – never seen one so inclusive and with such great staff and facilities. But there is no getting away from the fact that it’s a tough time for everyone involved.

If you looked at my social media you’ll see my posts about how amazing the hospital was. You’ll see pictures of my daughter enjoying the playroom. You’ll see my picture of me with my nice morning coffee.

What you didn’t see was me holding my daughter’s hand and crying in the surgeon’s room before they sent her to sleep.

Tears rolling down my face saying “be a brave girl for mummy”, “I’m so sorry you have to go through this”.

You didn’t see me and her dad sat outside in the waiting room, nervous leg tapping, heart pounding, playing over and over in my head the awful things they could come out of that room and say.

All I wanted to know was that she was okay.

What social media saw was the pictures of the beautiful park we walked around to distract ourselves from the fact that our 5 year old was under the knife.

We are home now. I posted a few selfies with Amy earlier. I am obviously wearing no make up and look a bit of a mess, but I wanted everyone to see her gorgeous smiling face and her enjoying life so soon after the surgery.

The reality is I have cried today quite a bit. Not in front of her, but privately when she’s distracted by videos.

She hasn’t smiled all day like she would have you believe from her facebook page. “She always looks so happy” people tell me who follow her page.

But that’s because it isn’t as engaging to post 3-hour videos of my child screaming and crying in pain.

This afternoon she got very distressed. She needed to nap but her body wouldn’t let her.

It’s so frustrating and I always feel powerless.

I did everything in the list. I tried her in her bed, on my lap, in a comfy chair, on her mats on the floor.

We tried pain killers, toys, videos, singing, even blowing bubbles. Nothing worked. Sometimes neurological irritability or pain is just that, and you need to just try and breathe through it and wait for it to pass.

So that’s why the photo for this blog is of my child crying. I take no delight in brandishing that to the world. But sadly today that was our reality and to pretend it was anything other than a set of challenges would be lying.

When she is upset her muscles take over even more.

She twists, arches, thrashes and kicks. Today I got kicked in the throat and back handed in the mouth.

She rips clumps of her hair out (often needing socks put on her hands to protect her from herself), spits out, chokes, and screams.

It’s so distressing to watch and the picture for this post accurately depicts what I’m describing. I wouldn’t normally stand back and take a picture.

I’m usually right in there trying to subdue to situation, and immediately after that picture that’s what I did.

I don’t do it for attention, or sympathy, merely to show that actually there are two sides to every story.

For every smiling picture you see, there’s probably a huge meltdown before or after it.

I posted recently from the special needs dentist place. Social media saw a happy little girl enjoying her favourite book in the waiting room.

They didn’t see 3 people restraining her, blood, crying, and then me crying the whole way home from the trauma of it all.

I could probably give 1001 examples of what people saw vs what people didn’t see. I want them to see the good, the good is there. But the bad is there too, lurking in the shadows.

So please don’t ever feel like you aren’t doing enough.

That you should have more friends. More money. More holidays. That you should be doing more therapy with your child.  That you should be checking in to more fancy bars. That you should be checking in to the gym more. That you should be doing anything other than what you feel is right for you at that moment.

Comparison is the thief of joy. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it.

We can always wish we had a bigger house, or more space, or a smaller dress size. It is only human to want more than what we have.

Seeing that picture of Amy pains me. I had begged with her to calm down, pleaded.

I had exhausted all options and felt like a complete failure.

I wanted to be on my own and with people all at once. I didn’t know myself what I wanted. I think maybe today I needed not social media, but an actual friend there with me helping me get through it and guiding me through all of the emotions.

The other problem I have with social media is that a huge amount of my friends are families like ours. Every bit of bad news they get, every illness their child gets…. I take that on. I feel it deeply. I care so much and know how they feel, that I can feel my energy drain for me as if I am that person feeling that same set of emotions.

I either care too much, or I care too little. I spend a lot of time wishing things could be easier for so many people.

I see people fundraising for things they didn’t know they’d ever need… and I wish I had endless money so I could wave my magic wand and make their lives have one less problem.

As much as I loathe to see gloating… it pains me even more to see suffering.

It was only 4 days in the hospital. But it was entire nights of endless beeping, crying children, chatting nurses, a hard bed, a cold room and so on. It’s going to take a toll.

We eventually got home and I settled for a bowl of cereal as I was too tired to cook.

I am slowly making my way through the washing and starting to return to our normal whilst also looking at all of the world book day costumes… a costume I didn’t get to buy this time or partake in.

It’s easy to feel bitter.

I am sure that this time next week things will be much calmer and happier, but at the same time, new challenges will no doubt have presented themselves!

So in case you needed to hear it today…

Your battles are your battles. Your challenges are your challenges. You are good enough. You aren’t a failure.

How you feel is valid. It doesn’t matter if someone is worse off than you. You can only do what you can do.

Be kind to yourself. Social media isn’t real life. You will get through this. You may feel lonely, but you are not alone.

It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel nothing and everything all at once. It’s okay to not care… or to care too much.

About Ceri-Ann Brown

My name is Ceri-Ann Brown and I live in Stockport, Manchester. I live with the love of my life Phil, my amazing daughter (Amy-Rose) and my giant guinea pig Vito. I care for Amy full time and work one day a week in an office/call centre. In my spare time (ha!)

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