How the media contributed to my depression, and how I'm getting better
I know that the topic of women and the media has been discussed a million times, and it will probably be discussed a million more times — but that’s a good thing. We need to keep talking about it until things get better.
We have all been bombarded with beautiful, over-edited images of women, while being sold products and treatments that claim to fix all our woes and promise to make us pretty, too.
In social media, people often feel like they have to edit their own images. They only post the best pictures of themselves and document the best parts of their lives. It give off the impression that they are beautiful, happy and confident. You may do it too, but you know what your life is really like.
The result is that everyone else’s lives look so much better than your own, because you can’t see all the bad things also happening to them, too. We think that beautiful equals confident, which equals happy.
Whenever things didn’t work out socially for me, I always assumed it was because I wasn’t “up to standard.” I wasn’t “good enough.” But the thing is, I have always been surrounded by loving, supportive people. Looking back, the only thing in my life that seems it could have caused my insecurity was the media.
I’d go on diets. I’d try to fix my skin, fix my teeth. I changed my hair, changed my clothes. I hoped that if I was pretty enough, I would fit in. I obviously wanted to be funny and interesting too, but I felt like the only thing I could control was how I looked.
But, of course, trying to make myself prettier didn’t actually fix my social issues or suddenly help me to fit in. I was left with was the overwhelming sense that no matter how hard I tried I was never good enough.
What began as me feeling low because I wasn’t good enough, turned into me feeling low for no reason at all. Things quickly spiraled. I got so low that I couldn’t face going out and seeing people. But then I felt more isolated, so I got lower. When I did force myself into social situations, I spent the whole time worrying that people could tell I was “worthless.” Everything was working together to make me feel certain that I wasn’t good enough.
Long story short, I have since started seeing a counselor and taking anti-depressants, and those things have helped me to start undoing the damage that was done.
But I do feel that if we weren’t always surrounded by edited images of women in magazines, and we instead saw women (and men) of all shapes and sizes — perhaps people wouldn’t be motivated to edit and curate their own social media in the same way. Then, maybe, I wouldn’t have felt quite so unworthy.
I hope that I will eventually come out as a stronger person because of all of this. Here are a few of my tips for anyone else struggling with depression in a similar situation:
First and foremost — seek help
See a doctor, speak to your family, see a therapist. Don’t just do nothing and hope the problem goes away. You deserve help just as much as the next person!
Look into minimalism
Minimalism is the idea that no amount of stuff can make you happy, so buying a certain product won’t fix your problems.
Surround yourself with positive images — unlike a lot of the media
Watch positive YouTube channels, read body-positive articles, make mood boards, write lists of goals. Think about the things that you want to do in life — and if you don’t know, pick some random activities to try (like I do) until you find out what you want!
Try to start a morning and night time routine
A big part of my depression is struggling to get myself out of bed when I have zero motivation and don’t see the point. If I have a pre-planned routine that I do every morning, it at least convinces me to get up and focus on the ritual. Now, every morning, I have to drink a pint of water, watch a positive YouTube video, wash my face and care for my skin, do some stretches, make breakfast, write a to-do list for the day, and then put on my clothes and makeup. It only takes me an hour or less to do everything, and it helps me start my day on the right track.
Force yourself to do positive activities and see supportive people
If there is one thing I have learned in counselling, it is identifying the negative cycles that send you into a downwards spiral, and intentionally taking physical actions to break them.
“No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up, and never give up”
So I try to use this quote as my life motto. I try not to have pajama days anymore — and even if I’m staying in, I’ll take some time to care for myself and dress in a way that makes me feel more confident. I then feel good enough to try and achieve some goals I have set for myself that day. Today, my goal was to write an article… 😉
Change your setting at least once a day
There is nothing worse than spending all day in one room. It makes you feel as though you have achieved nothing. Even if you just move to another room in your house, it can help you feel less like you’re stuck in a rut.
I am still learning myself, but if you have depression or any other mental health issue, just know that there is a way to eventually get through it. When things are tough and it feels like you’re drowning, you can learn to breathe underwater — like a mermaid!