My approach to Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Tumblr you name it, has always been somewhat of a guarded one. It often seemed to me that by the time you have mastered one application, it then gets upgraded and there are three new ‘happening’ ones that suddenly become the rage. I just could never keep up, and so, kept my relationship with it limited and intimate; with a constant watch over the number of people on my friends list or in my network. I’ve always found it a great way to stay connected with family and friends near and far, and I actually share pieces of my life via this medium. It is a way to share my life’s adventures, places I’ve been, things I’ve experienced and to share in others’ experiences by the same token.
That would all change when my daughter Mila was diagnosed with a rare heart condition – HLHS. The decision to share or ‘come out’ with your child’s illness to people outside of family and close friends can be somewhat of a difficult one. It is something you hold so close to your heart you can’t make up your mind who you want to share it with or when. From the point of diagnosis to Mila’s first open heart surgery, I never said a word publicly on Social Media about my circumstance. I didn’t know how to, and so I went from being a Social Media socialite to a virtual recluse. Suddenly I wasn’t so sure if ‘the face’ I always had on Facebook: happy, go lucky, adventurer, lover of life, was still the one remaining in the midst of my life changing experience. I felt as if what was left was a mere shadow of that girl, now ridden with the dark reality of my daughter’s illness. It made me think, was this ‘the face’ I now wanted to share with the virtual community that always ‘liked’ my pictures and posts and shared in my once carefree life? Would they get this challenge? Would they welcome this ‘face’ without judgment, pity or reproach? It was something I had to think about for a long time.
I remember having a conversation once with a fellow heart mom at the hospital, who had chosen to share her journey on Facebook. She shared with me the overwhelming support she had received, and how it had actually gotten her through some very dark times. That provoked my thought process and I began to question the real reason I hadn’t chosen to share my journey on Social Media, the way I had shared all the fun, glowing, socially acceptable experiences. Was it my daughter’s illness that was antisocial or was it me, when it came to the less than glowing situations in my life? It then begged the question what ‘face’ am I really putting out there on Facebook, on Social Media? I then began to think of all the things people post on Social Media, the ‘faces’ they create, depicting only what they want people to see; albeit how remote it may be from their life’s reality. Does Social Media truly reflect all of our lives’ experiences good and bad; or do we simply create a front that represents only the parts of our lives that we deem to be enviable and socially acceptable? I then mused, if I carried on in this anti-social silence would I be true to myself and to my circumstance, or would I be like many others who only present the ‘face’ I wanted others to see? The answer was no.
I then decided to no longer ‘dress rehearse’ the social acceptance of my predicament, to no longer give so much attention to how I thought people would view it. The thought of my daughter’s illness was akin to that of having a wound. A wound needs air and nurturing care in order to heal and so I had to talk about it. I needed to carefully do what was necessary to help myself feel better. In that vein, I ‘came out’ with my new ‘face’. The one that knew happiness and pain, joy and suffering, fear and freedom, trials and triumphs. The one that had acquired a few more stress lines, bags under the eyes from sleepless nights and the one that bore the wisdom of a mother, born out of one of life’s most profound learning and growing experiences. So I shared my story on Social Media, I started this blog and spoke of my journey on Facebook.
To my surprise Social Media opened up and received me in a way that was unimaginable. Suddenly I realized that there was this global village ready to offer overwhelming support to me in my time of need. Why was I ever antisocial with it I wondered? The true nature of how sociable it could be was now manifesting itself before my very eyes. The flood of prayers, encouragement, pictures, kind sentiments and words of wisdom touched me to my very core. It was great to know that I could come clean, bare my heart and still be ‘liked’. Ironically, Social Media became my ‘breathing space’. The place where I could go and write, bare my feelings and receive support, prayers, upliftment and encouragement. I was overwhelmed by the level of compassion I was afforded in this breathing space, that space where people viewed me without judgment, criticism, or the need to control. That space where everyone believed I was capable of resolving my difficulties and challenges, and chose to STAND with and by me in that awareness. I guess the moral of the story is to always be true to who you are and your circumstance. I now know that owning my story and loving myself through the process is the bravest thing I’ll ever do! Thank you Social Media!