Anybody still there?
For those who may have noticed (although I wouldn't hold it against you if you hadn't), the last month I have pretty much been AWOL. For the first time in a long time, I simply did not want to talk to anyone. I put my phone in a drawer and refused to turn on my laptop.
There are a variety of posts and information out there as to why a digital detox is a sensible idea in this 24 hr news cycle, more information that the human brain can healthily process, society we now find ourselves in. In someways I wish I could say that my going AWOL was a conscious process in order to actively invest in my well being, but in reality it was nothing like that. It wasn't just that I took some time away from Instagram, I stopped engaging in my Whatsapp group chats; barely replied to texts and basically locked myself away with nothing but the cat and Gilmore Girls for company.
Although, reading that back, it doesn't exactly sound like the worst thing in the world does it?
Instantaneous communication is a completely glorious things when you have something that you want to share, but what happens when you don't have anything you want to say? The last six months have been a real struggle for me. As I have written previously, coming out of a toxic work environment spun me into a depressive episode I had felt brewing overhead for sometime. As soon as I handed my notice in the storm broke in a particularly violent way. I did my best to not internalise the way I was feeling - I went back to therapy; I wrote about it on this blog and Instagram; I talked it through with my wonderfully patient friends and fiancé; I trained regularly. Eventually though, I reached saturation point. I had nothing left I could say on the matter but yet, I did not feel better.
Have you ever been completely sick of the sound of your own voice? Unless you are a complete egotist, the likelihood is you have caught yourself wittering on about the same topic for the fifth time that week and wished you would just pipe down. I felt like Carrie after her and Big had broken up for the billionth time and just would not shut up about it. (Yes I used a Sex and the City reference in 2017, I am old, get over it.) ( I am also aware the Carrie was a complete egotist, but I feel the point still stands.)
I just could not bare to listen to myself anymore and I was utterly convinced that no one else wanted to hear it either. So quite simply I stopped talking. I stopped replying to people, stopped going to the gym, stopped posting online, just stopped. I was so scared that I would be asked how I was doing and unable to say 'yeah, much better thanks' that it was best to avoid being asked all together. I felt guilty that I wasn't doing any better.
When you stop paying attention to the constant stream of phone notifications you quickly realise how much you were engaging with that quite honestly, didn't require your attention. Our brains are so used to such a high level of continual stimulation that we require more and more simply to feel like we are connected to the world. The amount of meaningless mailing lists I had signed up to but never read; the Twitter chats I had engaged in that were upsetting me but I could not let go of; the Instagram stalking I did of people that neither inspired nor supported me. It was mind boggling.
Removing this background chatter actually gave my mind the space it truly needed to begin to process what had happened to me. I had previously been so focussed on doing what I thought I should be doing to get well, that in reality I was missing what I actually needed - quiet.
I began to realise that it wasn't about closing myself off to the world, it was about being more discerning about how I choose to engage with it. This is a real challenge when we are so scared of missing a breaking news story or not liking a Instagram post in a timely manner. I might post less now but I am more connected than I was before. The wonderful friends (both online and those in my life) that checked in with me despite knowing they were unlikely to get a reply, those are the connections I want to invest my energy in.
So, for now, you maybe hearing from me a little less, I hope you can understand why.