Social Media Can Be a Lifeline for Women Battling Illness, Loss & Depression
The negative stigma surrounding women's health, especially mental health, is unproductive and dangerous, and normalizing the conversation is more important than ever. Social media is one medium that can expedite that process, as highlighted by three brave women who took the stage at SheKnows Media's BlogHer18 Health conference on Wednesday, Jan. 31 to share how social media helped them heal from their personal health battles.
Eva Amurri Martino (whose mom is none other than Susan Sarandon) was an actor for 15 years before she decided to switch gears and started her blog, Happily Eva After, a few months before suffering from a miscarriage, which triggered a very painful time in her life.
"It was very sudden. It was pretty late in the game — later than I thought people had miscarriages," Amurri Martino told the audience. "It was a deeply painful, really isolating experience. In the midst of my pain and my reaction to this experience, I realized that no one was talking about this and... [since it's] something that happens to 1 in 4 pregnancies, there must be a community of people who are suffering in silence. I decided to write a very public blog post, and the response I got really showed me what an appetite there is for openness and authenticity and sharing the good, the bad and the ugly of this very collective motherhood experience.”
It was the first time blogging helped Amurri Martino through a painful experience — but not the last. At just 5 weeks old, her son suffered a skull fracture and a subdural hematoma when the night nurse fell asleep and accidentally dropped him.
“We were in the hospital for three days. We didn’t know if he would have to be put in a coma. It was just, as you would imagine, an extremely harrowing experience that I was very unprepared for, and it just kind of sparked full-on PTSD, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety,” said Amurri Martino. “Last January, I decided to write a blog post detailing what I was going through, and that’s when I started writing about and championing postpartum anxiety and a lot of these mental health issues in the motherhood space, because it can be an extremely isolating experience.”
Kendall Rayburn also used her blog for support when she was diagnosed with endometriosis. Originally a craft blogger, Rayburn began blogging about her battle with endometriosis after receiving a diagnosis at 22. “I had all this knowledge about endometriosis, about how I was feeling, what I was going through, and for me to sit down in the dark of my living room and share that was the most therapeutic thing. When people started responding to it, I was like, ‘OK, I need to keep doing this and putting myself out there,’” said Rayburn.
Phoebe Lapine, founder of nutrition blog Feed Me Phoebe and author of The Wellness Project, was diagnosed with Hashimoto thyroiditis 10 years ago. “I was really struggling, and I think one thing we all can identify with is the feeling of isolation that comes with mental health issues, chronic illness, and I thought to myself, ‘Gee, I am technically in the healthy living space, and if I’m having this much trouble, how lost must everyone else be feeling?’” she said.
That's when Lapine decided to publicly share her journey living with Hashimoto thyroiditis. "Just the validation of sharing your story and realizing that it can have an impact was amazing... I think it’s so important for people to share their experiences because we’re the ones in the trenches, out in the real world figuring out how to [heal ourselves and live with the illness], and that’s the part I don’t think is talked about enough.”
While we often hear about the negative impacts of social media, it's important to realize that it can also be used as an outlet for healing and support. As these three brave women demonstrate, sometimes the feeling of isolation that accompanies a diagnosis can be just as damaging as the physical symptoms of the disease. But there are other people going through the same thing as you, and luckily, social media is making it much easier to find them.