I feel like I should get a medallion; some sort of visible, tangible disk that tells me exactly how long I have managed to not be on Facebook. I’m an addict, there’s no way around it. I am going to be completely and utterly and terribly humiliatingly honest: I am addicted to the interaction, I am addicted to people knowing I am alive or dead and reacting to that. I am addicted to the compassion shown to me in shitty times and to the joy and celebration I have enjoyed in good times. I think, I hope, I have given some of that back too. But the fact remains that I am addicted to it. It’s not about attention, but that acknowledgement that you are alive and someone wants to speak to you and interact with you, I find that addictive.
I got myself into a bit of a state. Facebook is like a fairground ride. One of those with steep walls that spins incredibly fast. I found myself at the bottom of the pit comparing myself to everyone spinning around me. I never really compared myself favourably, but that’s not the point, the point is that I shouldn’t have been comparing myself at all. I had become someone almost entirely reliant on the views of other people in order to see who I actually was. It was like I blindfolded myself and just listened to everyone around me.
There were a few triggers. I had made a stupid, stupid, horrible mistake in a friendship that I valued and lost the trust of the friend. Seven years of friendship exploded in a big horrible painful showdown that had probably been building for a while. One thing said in particular ricocheted through me, it was something I’d said about myself a long time ago, and that my friend had remembered and held it up as a mirror to me was hard. But perhaps necassary. I had done one of the stupidest things and completely abused my friend’s trust, in a way that just isn’t ‘me’. And I deserved to be attacked for it. Words are such powerful, brutal things. I hurt my friend very badly. And I had been very badly hurt too. No amount of apologies will ever return it to where it was, that friendship. My friend was able to move on, they are a private person, but they have brilliant social skills and make friends very easily. And I am genuinely, truly glad that they have friends in their life that will care for them, I really am.
I find friendships difficult to maintain, because I am so worried about being dumped, for want of a better word, that I expect it constantly, questioning everything because I just cannot believe anyone would hang about with me through choice. See? When I said that this would be humiliating, I meant it. Because it is, it’s difficult to admit that you struggle to do the most basic thing and make friends with people without getting all up in their grill wondering constantly if they like you still. And to add another layer of craziness, part of the PTSD that I live with after Matilda’s death is me worrying to an incredible, extreme level, that the people I love and the people I care about will die. I think I was always like that a bit, as part of the anxiety thing, but God, the amount of time I spend worrying about other people’s pregnancies is just unbelievable. And I have several pregnant friends on Facebook at the minute, one of which, by some twist of the fate-knife, has the same due date as Matilda, so it’s been like counting it along. One of the reasons I came off Facebook was because I felt like I might have been making her feel uncomfortable. I like to talk about my experiences, and as I say, connecting to people and having them acknowledge my daughter and her life and her death, sharing the memories when they crop up in the app, that is important to me because it means that she isn’t forgotten, as is raising awareness about stillbirth and miscarriage. But when I looked at it from her point of view, I thought she might have seen it as me constantly asking her to realise how lucky she is. It wasn’t my intention, but I know if it was me, I would want to be able to talk openly about my happy pregnancy and how much I love my baby and how much I am looking forward to her arrival, I would want to share every. single. picture, and I would definitely want to tell people when I was feeling utterly shitty and depressed and struggling, and it would be hard to do that, with someone like me, with my experiences and my need to talk about it, hanging around like a bad smell all the time, and making me feel guilty.
So I came off Facebook. And I was a state. My husband and I are trying to figure out if it’s time to stop trying to have a baby. I have mentioned a billion times: thirteen years, five rounds of IVF, one stillbirth due in part to clinical negligence, two miscarriages. I am 38, he is 48. He says yes, he wants to stop. My head says ‘please, please stop’ my natural stubbornness and tenacity says ‘like fuck are we giving up’ and my body says ‘gin please, and cake, and make it snappy’. My ovaries, or rather ‘ovary’ as I only have one, is gasping, crawling around like it’s been in a war and saying, ‘we’re not done yet, soldier, the next time could be the one’ and it goes on and on and on with this constant argument with myself constantly. One day I feel like I have accepted it, the next I am convinced that we should try again. And the thing that haunts me most? What will I do with the baby things? because it will kill me to say goodbye again. And I am sick of living in this pit of grief, and I am absolutely bloody sick of myself talking about it, ruining friendships and generally being the spectre at the feast.
So, I came off Facebook. I stayed on twitter, because it’s less personal, it’s so limited I don’t get a chance to be too tragic or too boastful, and there is so much going on that it’s easy to stay in the background and just watch, share sometimes, share the poetry stuff, be quiet. I share pictures of my animals mainly. And congratulate the people I know, my publishers won a saboteur award recently, so it was nice to be able to celebrate that for them. and I have spent time building my business page on twitter, which I’d not done before.
The first week off Facebook was torture. I was spinning like a top, I did not know who I was or what I was doing or how well I was doing it because no one was telling me. Then a strange thing happened. I began to stop thinking about it, I didn’t know what was going on in my friend’s lives,I couldn’t see their time line any more, so it became easier not to worry they were dead or having a stillbirth or…all the countless scenarios that whilst they could very well be true at any point, it is pointless worrying over them until that time that they are true. I stopped trying to save my friends. I stopped trying to save them from the scenarios that I imagined constantly. And I started writing. Not the frantic ‘must get published, must keep the ball rolling, the momentum going’ type of writing, not the ‘omg so and so has won this competition or that competition and I am so shit I haven’t even placed so must work harder and try more and be better…’ type of writing, but the sitting down at my desk with my coffee and slowly writing, thinking, adjusting, contemplating, writing. For the first time in ages I was writing what I wanted, exploring my own ideas about stuff and recognising that they are good ideas. Not all of them, but some of them are great. And you know what? I have nearly finished the sellkie pamphlet. And it is good.It has evolved into an exploration about marriage, about how much is the right amount of yourself to give away. I feel like it might actually evolve into a full collection. Or not.I have the time to think. I’ve entered two competitions too, not because I felt I needed to, but because I felt that I was good enough to win. I went to a few readings and met friends and had a real laugh. I made dates to meet up with friends and went and enjoyed it, and had a laugh and came home and enjoyed it. I drove all the way to Chesterfield without the slightest tremor, I actually enjoyed the ride.
I think, I might be speaking too soon, but I needed to reconnect to myself and start listening to myself. And I think I might be a strong enough person to use Facebook for what it is, a bit of fun, not something that tells you what you should be doing and who you should be. The pregnancy thing is difficult because I still find it so hard, it’s no one’s fault and I won’t feel bad for finding it hard, in the same way I wouldn’t want anyone to feel bad for having babies. It is just the way the penny has rolled. I think putting myself first might actually be key, rather than constantly trying to prove that I am happy for people. people who know me will know that I AM happy for anyone that can have babies, I’m just fucking gutted that i can’t give my husband that. or myself. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.
I wish I could go back and change some things, the betrayal of trust in a friendship I treasured so much, in particular, but I’m also wondering if perhaps that friendship and a few others had run their course. I would like to be on friendly terms one day, but that’s not possible. Too much history. Perhaps this was my lesson. So I am grateful, in a way, for knowing and recognising this. And so very very grateful for anyone who can stick with me as a friend and know and understand and be the person that recognises that I am not my faults, my faults are a part of me, but they are not my definition. And I hope I always see that in others. I hope I can hold on to that.
There is no doubt whatsoever that I’ll be talking more and more about the journey that my husband and I are undertaking, and I think that’s OK, It’s something that should be talked about. There’s this huge difficulty that people with children have with people without, and vice versa, depending on the circumstances. But this is my personal space, I want to be open here. And hopefully it will be more about the writing etc and celebrating some cracking poets I know and would like to know as well. and not just me talking out loud to people that aren’t actually there.
4 thoughts on “The Facebook Break”
Reading your blog post has made me cry, for reasons too numerous to mention. I know people who deal with trauma often hate being called ‘brave’ – they say it’s not bravery, it’s pragmatism. There isn’t a choice. You put one foot in front of the other. You press on.
But I think this is one of the bravest pieces of writing I’ve read in an age. You are open and honest is a way few could be, or could afford to be. I admire that immensely. In a world without magic wands, I wish I could wave one for you. I was fortunate in pregnancy. Very sick, but fortunate. And I am soon to be a grandmother, so that makes me doubly fortunate. My heart breaks for you and I am disappointed that anyone would in any way resent your speaking regularly of your experience and celebrating the short but beautiful life of your beloved Matilda. She was, is and always will be part of your life.
Knowing of the decisions you have faced, I have thought of you all many times during your facebook break, wondering how you were. And yes, I’m glad you’re ‘addicted’ to facebook, because you’ve been missed. We’re not even fb friends, but I’m aware you’re not around because my world is a little poorer for the lack of gentle and encouraging comments and your sharply witty ripostes. So welcome back. Try to think less about questioning who would want to ‘hang out’ with you and more about enjoying the relationships you are forming with people who (despite the assertions of your final line) are actually out here. Listening.
Much love. xx
That is such a beautiful thing to say. Thank you. You are so kind to comment, I can’t tell you how much i appreciate it xx
When I went crazy in Spain.. I thought EVERYTHING was my fault, or down to me…my son kept telling me..that didn’t happen because of you..you didn’t cause that..in effect..he was saying ‘you’re not that important’…and he was right..me fucking up, you fucking up, all of us fucking up..doesn’t stop the world spinning. I like animals because they do their best. I like people who do their best. It’s the most we can do.
Very true. I feel like I do always do my best