Many studies into the relationship between social media and mental health suggest that spending too much time online can make symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses worse. Seeing other people’s “perfect” lives on Facebook may elicit feelings of envy, insecurity and isolation and have an adverse effect on self-esteem.
However for 36-year-old Londoner Charlotte Reed using Facebook every day was what she believes helped her overcome mental illness. Following an operation at the age of 30, Reed was diagnosed with clinical depression.
“I felt awful and I couldn’t understand it,” she said. “I felt beyond sadness. It was physiological and psychological. I got very bad headaches — it felt like the front of my skull was cracking. It felt like there was water rushing through my head. I was having panic attacks on a regular basis — it was like someone had pulled cheese wire across my throat and was tightening it. It would get more and more intense until I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I would be sweating and my heart would be pounding. I would have a sense of impending doom. I felt like the world would end or my family would be killed. I was like a zombie in a dark cloud.”
Despite her severe symptoms, the former legal secretary refused her GP’s recommendation of anti-depressants. She had six weeks of NHS counselling but says at the end of that time she “didn’t feel very different.”
So she decided to try something a bit different and pledged to post cheerful status updates on her Facebook page every day for two years, monitoring changes in her mental health along the way.
“I decided to write positive statuses,” she said. “One was ‘Follow your own way’ and another was ‘Do your best and then let the universe do the rest.’ The first thing I did every morning was put the day’s message on Facebook. My friends would always log on to read them.”
Reed’s daily messages of positivity grew to be so popular with her Facebook friends that if she was ever late in posting, she was asked what the delay was. This encouraged Reed to turn the quotes into a book, which she also illustrated. “I hope my thoughts bring some joy, insight and magic to your days,” is Reed’s message to her readers.
May The Thoughts Be With You: Ideas and Wisdom to Inspire Your Days by Charlotte Reed, is available at Amazon.co.uk.