Why I Stopped Hiding the Harsh Realities of Chronic Illness on Social Media

It's time to stop hiding

Social media, it’s time we have a little talk. 

Don’t get me wrong I use social media, often. As a blogger, it promotes communication, networking, and provides the means to connect with those I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to. True to its name it is a hub of social behavior, that does not, however, mean that it is a true and accurate depiction of an individual’s life.

Take a second to think. How many times have you staged a photo? Have you ever taken an amazing selfie of your top half, while wearing pajama bottoms? Have you ever arranged the subject of your picture in an attempt to get the best lighting? The reality is social media isn’t about depicting “reality” so much as it is about creating an illusion that we’re happiest with.

I am certainly guilty of this! In fact just this past Saturday I posted an article on the blog, and most people would not have been aware that I had done that from a gurney in the triage of a hospital. (thankfully all was okay and there was no cause for extreme worry!) Immediately after though, I thought about the hours that led up to that current situation. I remember communicating to my residents that I was “tired, but otherwise fine.” I told my coworker very calmly “I’m okay. Hopefully, this is just routine. See you tomorrow!”

Meanwhile, my hands were shaking and my mind was going to the worst-case scenarios. Was I minimizing my symptoms for the comfort of my coworker and residents, or was I afraid to be a burden? I suspect it is more the latter. Too often I find myself thinking that I am a burden to those I care about. Every once in a while I find myself pushing away these intrusive thoughts that if I were healthy and free of either condition the lives of my family members and loved ones would be easier.

I know that is not true. I know I am not a burden and that those are the thoughts of my deepest, darkest insecurities. I believe that I was blessed with a purpose and a drive that is a direct result of the very subjects which are also my insecurities.

After I was discharged from the hospital I posted a photo that showed the bruises from failed attempts at IV access. Right before I did that I reflected on a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks prior to this event.

“Ash, you seem so happy. You look healthier! I’m happy for you.”

Ironically enough, they told me this on the day after I met with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss options that could possibly address an issue I have been struggling with since October. With that comment in mind, I unapologetically posted the photo. My goal this year was to heal from the inside out. I no longer wanted to simply survive life, I wanted to thrive. I wanted to strengthen friendships and connections in my life. In order to do this, I needed to stop hiding.

I needed to be truthful, communicative, as well as brave; and my relationships have strengthened as a result. I encourage you to do the same. Keep posting those amazing selfies! Keep finding that fantastic light! Also, know that in bringing your truths to light, by letting go of your pursuit of “social media perfection” you may find that you have amazing support and strength around you that you would not have otherwise discovered!