The Mirror says Social Media is not a Friend

When my husband became ill, it seemed Facebook and Twitter became my friend. Not a real friend, but I am friends with people on them and during wait times if my husband were having tests. surgery, etc. or on a night I could not sleep I would communicate with my friends through social media. Sometimes when I came home after a few nights slept in the hospital I would turn on the computer and spend hours catching up with my friends. They were my support group, cheering me on to remain strong, that they were there for me if I needed them. I do not know what changed. But social media no longer seems to be my friend.

After my husband died, I initially continued on with social media. One day I did not want to bother with it. One day turned into two, two turned into three and so on. When I finally decided to check Facebook, I had too many messages and notifications to catch up with in one sitting. I was overwhelmed. I probably should have immediately replied to as many as I could then I would not have gotten so far behind. The task of trying to catch up is daunting. I have tried several times, trying to go back to the oldest photo tag or comment posted on my wall as well as messages. Each time I do not accomplish much. Mostly because as I try to catch up with what everyone sees, I keep getting private messages. The messages are from friends I do not want to ignore, but by chatting with them I get further behind. So each time that I have tried, I also have failed. But that is not the only reason I no longer feel social media is not the friend it once was.

At Christmas time everyone was posting photos of their trees and houses decorated, new cars, happy families. Everything was beautiful. I looked around at what I once considered to be beautiful in my home but it did not seem beautiful. My husband was not here. One of my widow friends told me she somehow felt envious of her friends on Facebook, that they were living normal, happy lives while her’s seemed to stop. I knew the feeling. I too felt envious of my friends happy lives, beautiful houses, the exotic locations they were going to, most everything made me feel a twinge of envy that I probably would no longer have the life I had. I was not truly envious, as I was happy for my friends, it is just hard to look at things you are not sure you will ever have again in your own life.

Two weeks ago I decided to bite the bullet and go back on Facebook and attempt to catch up. This time was worse. Some of my friends are religious and tag me in inspirational pictures or quotes. Those are okay as they do not say “just get over it”, rather they are trying to show compassion. It was other friends that posted on their own walls. They had pictures and quotes that all basically said “Just move on with your life, it is not hard”. Those were not the exact words but it seemed many of my friends were posting these type of things. I know they were not meant for me, but for themselves. But I felt as though they were for me. It felt as though everyone were trying to tell me how to live. As I said, I know this was not meant for me but it hit close to home, making me think less of myself.

For a while, I just went on Twitter as only a few know who I am, the others that follow me do not know me. Soon, those who know me started to direct message non-stop. This was not what I wanted either. I know they were all trying to be nice, they care. The problem is I am trying to hide in social media, not be seen. Much like looking in a mirror, I do not want to look but I also do not want to be seen. So I stopped using Twitter too.

So what once was my friend no longer seems to be. If I had to guess it will be again. I need to catch up with my friends on Facebook, even if I do it in a mass message to my closest friends, as not everyone knows what has happened in my life or with my husband’s illness. I do need to spend less time on Twitter when I return, as I go there to look at something for a moment and when I look at the clock hours have passed by. I know it will probably take several attempts with Facebook to become comfortable with it again. But I owe it to the friends who were there for me in the darkest times, who I have not been in touch with since my husband died. I need to let them know I am trying to get on with my life. I need to apologize for what seems like turning my back on them.

For today I answered one private message. It was not from a good friend so it was easy. I will try a little each day or if I am up to it. I need to push myself. Maybe social media is not my friend now. Maybe I will still feel some type of envy or anger with the inspirational “get over it” quotes. But as I get stronger, maybe these things will no longer bother me. They never did before. I am trying to learn to live again, get back to what was my normal but it will be a different normal. There is no way around that, I am not the person I was 7 months ago. I have to start somewhere in every part of my life not just social media or friends.

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Boundaries in the Mirror

One of the last times I called 911 for an ambulance to bring my husband to the hospital two women came to the front door while I was standing waiting for the ambulance. I would suspect I was short-tempered with them, which is expected with the stress I felt at that moment. I told them they had to leave as they were in the middle of my driveway and an ambulance would be there any moment to take my husband to the emergency room. I also told them I had no time for them. They apologized and asked if they could visit at another time. I told them yes, but please hurry and leave. They left, the ambulance arrived and it was off to the hospital. With all that was happening so quickly with my husband’s health failing, I forgot about the two women.

About 4 months after he died these two women rang my doorbell. I was expecting family in a few hours, this would be the first time I allowed anyone to visit since my husband had died. The women explained that they had been there over the summer and I seemed very stressed and this was the first time that they had been able to get back to my neighborhood. They asked about my husband and I told them he died. They offered condolences and said they would pray for him. Then they asked if they could come in. I was thinking “no way” but said “okay but only for a few minutes as I am expecting family”. I was lucky, they had other appointments that day so we only talked, I should say I only talked briefly. They asked if they could return in the future. Once again I thought “no way” instead I told them they could return.

My family visited for five days. I thought it would be an uncomfortable visit. It turned out to be fine. Though many things we planned I was not up to, we did go out some. The reason I say the visit was fine is my family does not know of my panic attacks and my fear to walk out the door. My explanation for not doing all they wanted was the weather, which they understood. The morning after they left, while I was still sleeping I heard the doorbell ring again. I thought maybe it was a package or something else of that type. No, it was the two women wanting to visit. I explained, I was sleeping and was not up to a visit. I also explained it would probably be a little longer until I was up to visits. They apologized for waking me and wished me a good day.

The following Saturday, in the midst of a severe migraine, the doorbell rang again. Once again it was these two women. Again I told them I was not up to it. For the next several weeks they probably stopped by my house at least once a week, though a few times it was twice. Each time I told them I was not up to visits. The last time they rang the doorbell, which was last Saturday, I told them nicely that it would be a few weeks if not months before I was up to visiting. They told me to have a nice day and left. I thought, finally, some freedom from that doorbell and these two women. It was not to be.

This morning before the doorbell rang, I saw them walking up my stairs. I have windows on each side of my door, so they could see I was sitting there. I had no time or I would have gone in the other room and not answered the door. They also came at a bad time as I was looking at my ailing pet, thinking of my husband who had died, there were tears in my eyes but they were probably from something other than crying, an allergy most likely. I did not bother wiping the tears when I answered the door. They noticed the tears, but still wanted to come in and visit. I tried to hide my anger as I told them that on Saturday I had told them I was not up to visits. That I would not even allow neighbors to visit. I told them I was struggling, not only dealing with my husband’s death, I now had my pet who was dying. Surprisingly the women said my pets impending death must bring a lot of memories of my husband’s dying and what I went through before he died. I did not expect anyone to understand how my pets illness brings up what I went through. I still did not allow them in. In fact I tried to tell them nicely that I did not want any visits for at least two months, maybe longer. They were quite kind and said that mourning (they did not say grief) takes not only time, but time alone. I was surprised they understood my need to be alone as well as my need to look at the past, one even said it is best to look at the past so we do not repeat what we did not like about it in the future. It was nice to have someone understand that. Still I did not let them in. I know I need more contact with people, but I am working towards that. As for these two women, they are very nice but they need to learn to respect boundaries.

I did not mention who these women were as most people would draw judgement on them. They are Jehovah Witnesses. I am not. I had a very good friend that was. Our friendship was not based on religion but how we had so many things in common as well as our mutual respect for the other. Religion was never brought up by her unless she was going to an assembly and she would tell me what days she would be gone. I sometimes asked her about her religion. She would answer my questions. I am always curious about other religions and had never understood this one. My friend gave me explanations for her reasons to be a Jehovah Witness and a little about their beliefs. I sometimes joked with her about the knocking on doors. She did not like to do it, but did it once a year as it was part of her religion and service. When a Jehovah Witness comes to my door, I think of her. I would hope no one was ever rude and slammed the door in her face. She was very kind and sensitive. That would have hurt her immensely, though she understood why people did this. This is why I talk to these two women, out of respect for my friend.

I talk about my friend in the past tense. This is because I lost contact with her about 8 or 9 years ago. Shortly after my husband became ill, I looked to see if she was on Facebook. She was not, but her husband and children are. I messaged her husband to tell her I said hello, he asked for my phone number. I messaged back the number but told how my husband was so ill and all my time was spent caring for him. That I would like her to call, but I might not always be available. I never heard from her. Upon telling two who knew her well, they both said she must have died as she would have definitely called. I then went back to Facebook and looked at all the pictures her husband and children had posted. She is only in one, it is an old picture her son posted, someone asked who she was and he replied his mother. No other comments. She had two bouts with cancer, I see her son is battling cancer now. My only conclusion in seeing these things are that she most likely is dead. I was going to contact her husband again or her son or daughter, but realized I am not up to being friends with anyone at this time. So I have put it off until I am more sure of myself. I may not contact them even at that point as I do not want to bring up memories they might have already dealt with.

As for the two women that keep ringing my doorbell, I think they now understand I need time and will not bother me for a while. These two women also made me think of boundaries. When to say no. They obviously had not been respecting my boundaries or at the least did not understand. I know at times I have crossed boundaries thinking I am helping. Or I have crossed them with my husband’s doctors in order to talk with them when I wanted to, not at their convenience. My whole life I have crossed boundaries. I have spent a lot of time at race tracks or shops where the cars are built. To me being at a track or shop is more enjoyable than going to a spa. I know I crossed boundaries, used my looks to gain access to places others only dream of going. When I was younger someone very intelligent told me it was not fair I used my looks to get what I wanted. I replied one day my looks will fade, their intelligence would not, so I was using what I had before it was gone. I now see I was crossing boundaries. Would I cross them again? Most likely, but I think these two women have taught me a little. I will think twice and make sure it is not at the cost of someone else if I decide to cross a boundary.

No Mirrors Please

I am not ready to look into the mirror. That I know for sure. There is nothing else I know for sure. I wish I could say I did or that I was coming close to knowing, but it seems my ability to have my feet planted firmly on the ground is far in the distance. Maybe like objects in the mirror it is actually closer. But it does not feel that way. Too many memories cloud the future. So I am writing about the past so it stays there, in the past, not gone but a memory. If I can keep the past as memories maybe the future will be closer or at least the present.

While in the emergency room one time with my husband one time, I got up to use the rest room. While washing my hands I glanced up and saw my reflection. I looked terrible. It was as if a stranger were reflecting back at me. I glanced again, horror! It was the same if not worse than the first glance. Not that I cared what others thought, but it did cross my mind that others were seeing me like this. I did not want that but soon realized I had no control over it. I wanted the control to change how I looked and appeared to others. I wanted to be able to hold my head high as though everything was under control. But it was not.

I always brought a laptop and kindle to the emergency room or the hospital room. I always posted where I was. This was a signal to those who know myself and my husband well. If I updated my status to being at the hospital, it meant he was sick, but all was under control. If I tagged my husband as being with me, it was a signal that all was not okay, that my husband was not doing well. Arriving back from the rest room, my husband was asleep, most likely from medications. I took out my laptop. I posted we were in the ER. Then I put a comment, which I normally do not. I posted that I looked like crap and if anyone took a picture of me I would tackle them and break their camera or phone. On Facebook, this was met with humor from my friends. Some commenting that I would not only tackle and break camera, but probably break the person’s neck. There were many comments like that. Apparently everyone seemed to know I looked terrible and I was ready to do battle with anyone brave enough to take my picture. Some liked the post, which I thought was strange. Were they happy I looked like crap? More than likely they were just acknowledging they saw the post.

Facebook and Twitter became my friends at the hospital. They also became my friends at home. That may sound strange. I was with my husband who was my best friend. I had become friends and was with the nurses and doctors. I have family and friends. But, for some reason, turning on the computer and communicating on Facebook or Twitter, without really telling anyone what was wrong, helped me to deal. I was going to say escape. But there was no escaping. It was a way to skirt the real issues that were happening, not hide or avoid, but put them to the side. On these social media sites I could be my former self. I did not have to tell anyone how my life had become. I could joke with others as though all was right in the world. I could feel normal. All the while, my world was spinning out of control. But no one could see that through the computer.

When my husband was home, some mornings I would be secretly angry with him. After I helped him to get up and into the living room, the first thing he did was turn on his laptop. I know I sometimes gave him a nasty look. He would ask what was wrong. I would reply nothing. But in my head, I would be thinking of all I had to do before I could turn on the computer, if I had time to turn it on at all. I wanted to shout at him that he was not allowed to turn his computer on until I had a chance to get his medications and everything else he needed. I never did, as I knew that it was my problem to deal with, not his. I did not grow resentful. I learned to accept it. At some point, he would turn his laptop on and never look at it, or look but not see. This did not make me feel better. It just seemed unfair that I was exhausting every bit of energy I had to care for him, but he had time to do something I wanted to. I then started to wonder about how dependent I had grown to social media. I would intentionally stay off the computer at times. Unless, my husband was in the hospital. Then it was my connection to the world outside and I was on it most of the day or night, when my husband was asleep and sleep was something I could not find for myself.

After that time in the emergency room, I learned easily how to wash my hands without glancing at the mirror. I could even put contact lenses in without seeing my whole face. I would glance at my eyes only when putting them in, therefore, I did not see my face. When brushing my hair, I looked only at my hair. Anything that required a mirror, I found a way to see what was needed without seeing my whole face. Looking back, I do not know why this was so important. Probably because of my need to control.

As for social media. Sometimes I am on non-stop. Other times days go by and when I log in, I see countless photos I have been tagged in. They are not photos of me, rather photos friends no I will like. I also see many private messages. Once you read a message, the person who sent it can see what time you read it. I always feel obligated to answer these messages as most are from friends that are good friends. I do not want them to think I am ignoring them. So I end up looking at the photos, I look at the news-feed to see what friends are up to. I do not like or comment on anything or read the messages. I am just looking at life outside my life. Sometimes there is a little bit of envy, seeing that everyone is going about living their lives and their lives are very nice. Many of my friends are in jobs that pay well, so their houses reflect things I once had or most likely will never have. I ignore those feelings, as they are just a result of the sadness I feel. I am happy for my friends even if one of my initial thoughts may be of envy. They worked hard for what they have, they should enjoy it. Sometimes when I see one of my friends has bought their third or fourth Ferrari or Lamborghini, I think how excessive this is. How many families just one of their cars would feed in a world full on hunger? Could that money be used for research to find cures for illnesses? Then I think, they need these cars for the work they are in. Maybe not as many as they own. But who am I to say. After all, my husband was the dreamer. If he had won the lottery or come into a large sum of money, he would have been just like them only his purchases would not be from the need for his work, it would be for his enjoyment. Our garage would be filled with the same cars. It is then I realize I am not envious, nor do I think they should spend less or on causes they already donate to. I realize I am just missing my husband. Nothing more, nothing less.