It’s 5:30a and I have been wide awake for a couple of hours now.
This isn’t too unusual for me these days. When my head is spinning and I can’t sleep, I usually read for a while, and if I still can’t turn my head off, I will venture into the living room (so Boyfriend can sleep) and watch TV until I fall asleep on the couch.
Tonight, though, I did something really really stupid instead.
I Instagram-staked an ex.
Let’s back up a little bit. Back in March, I realized I hated social media. I realized that it did nothing but rob me of the joy I should feel when I think about my life and all I have. I can’t fathom how many hours I’ve spent looking at photos of other people’s lives and felt that my own was inadequate. Every day, every photo, it was like I was chasing a new dream that I had never even known I wanted. I’d see some beautiful girl who seemed to run around Europe in beautiful clothing for a living, not a care in the world, and feel horrible, wondering why that wasn’t me. Or I’d see the gorgeous, perfect homes with flawlessly designed rooms and perfectly tidy kitchens, and suddenly find that my own home and furniture was totally wrong. Perfect families. Perfect meals. Perfect pets. Perfect trips.
When I was dating (before I met Boyfriend), I would obsessively check and re-check my dude-du-jour’s profile, searching for hints that he was seeing someone else. Hoping he would allude to my existence in his life so I could feel confident in solidifying things. Looking up beautiful ex-girlfriends and comparing myself to them.
I started to post more and more of my own life’s moments. I posted gorgeous photos of my own travels, hiding the fact that I was actually sunburnt and had suffered from heat exhaustion that day. I didn’t post anything about the cost of the trips, and the incredible backload of emails and work I returned to. And I didn’t share the fact that I spent more time hoping people would feel envious of my trip rather than enjoying it in real life as much as I should have.
I posted selfies that had been perfected by apps that cleared the bags under my eyes and wrinkles that had been beginning to show around my eyes. I hid the imperfections of my body or the parts of my outfit that didn’t match the way I’d hoped. I didn’t post the 10 test photos that didn’t make the cut.
I posted a sting of ‘amazing’ events I was attending that suggested that my life was something everyone would want. I hoped to evoke thoughts from people… “Oh look, she’s at a gala! Oh, now she’s on a boat! Oooh, a golf tournament! Wow, that tiny corner of her house with the perfectly staged chair must mean the rest of her home is just as perfect!” I didn’t post the reality that 90% of my time is spent cleaning, working, watching TV, and grocery shopping like everyone else.
I posted photos of my work trips overseas, glamourizing my job and hoping to impress everyone. I didn’t showcase the fact that I was deeply homesick. There are no photos of the fact that I had the flu during a good portion of one of the trips, and spent hours in a hotel bed suffering. There was nothing there to suggest that the work itself involved long hours, stress about the events’ success and the impact it would have on my job, or the fact that some of it was incredibly boring and no better than being strapped to my desk in my home town.
I began to realize that I was doing what everyone else was doing: posting the perfected snippets of my life that suggest it is something more extraordinary than it is. Even though the other reality is that my life is wonderful, and that I don’t need to post stupid photos about it to prove that to myself.
Most importantly, I started to realize that I was hoping that people would feel horrible feelings when they saw my profile: I wanted them to feel jealous.
That was not a good feeling, and it made me feel deeply ashamed.
Without thinking about it for more than a moment, I deleted my Facebook and Instagram (I don’t have other accounts).
I thought I would miss it, and I thought I would eventually creep back. Perhaps I’d log into Facebook for a few minutes one day (since I know it’s actually impossible to actually delete Facebook). Or figure out how to reactivate Instagram to catch up.
But I never did. Since I wasn’t posting, I didn’t care much. And since I wasn’t dating, there was no one I cared enough about to check up on – everyone in my life now is actually present in my life.
Ever since I began this blog, I have had an Instagram account. I feel like it’s a good way to connect with others in the same position I am in. 100% of my @hashtagpanic account has to do with anxiety and depression. I don’t look up celebrity accounts, I don’t have anyone from my personal life on there, and I certainly don’t go looking for trouble.
Since I couldn’t sleep, I began to scroll through Instagram, and liked some relevant photos. I peered into a couple accounts who’d begun to follow me, and looked up hashtags that aligned with my own interests on there.
I don’t know what it was that made my type in his handle. I wasn’t even thinking about him. I don’t even like him.
But I did it. I stalked an ex. And it did me nothing but harm.
I began to feel all of the horrible feelings I had felt when we were dating. Feeling inadequate, not good enough, lied to. Trying and trying to make a relationship work. God knows I’d had enough of them at that point – I was desperate to make something work, even if, in hindsight, the relationship was terrible.
It led me to see he had a large number of “likes” on one of his photos, and I wanted to see who was paying so much attention to him. I saw links to accounts of girls I recognized but didn’t actually know in high school. They present themselves as having perfect, beautiful lives now. The feelings began to pop up: inadequacy, envy, dissatisfaction.
Then I saw the girl the ex might be dating (who I actually know), and saw that he commented red hearts on a few of her pictures. He never did that for me. I began to feel more jealousy, shame (since she knows I used to date him), and I started to feel like I could never show my face anywhere near this girl again. Anxiety was bubbling up.
I began to think about how this link to him was something I needed to sever – and that the link was through her and only her. I immediately started thinking about all of the things I’d have to change in my life: find a new ladies’ golf group for next year, not attend a mutual friend’s baby shower, steer clear of any event in his industry (it’s a big, trendy industry in my city) so that I’d never have to see them together.
I wasn’t thinking clearly. I tried to calm myself, and think of all these feelings as passing clouds, detach from all of the conclusions I was coming to: they’re dating, he loves her, other people have perfect lives, my life isn’t good enough.
It was just too much. I couldn’t stop the overwhelming overflow of emotions. There were too many, and I was too alone. I nudged Boyfriend, and he hugged me, saying “you having a rough one?” (which is what he typically says when I’m panicking), but he was just too sleepy to really soothe me like he usually does.
So now I am here, on my computer. Getting my thoughts out, trying to see things for what they really are.
Jealousy, Fear, Shame, Inadequacy. They’re all here this morning. Those guys are keeping me company.
But those are just feelings – they’re floating by, and they don’t make up part of my essence. They have nothing to do with my soul. With Me.
I’m trying to take comfort in that, this morning. I’m trying to ignore the tightness in my chest and just quietly observe the crazy thoughts of needing to overhaul my life because of all of these conclusions my Ego has come to.
Because really, all I did was see a couple of pictures. All I did was feel a few feels.
I belong here, in my cozy house. I can feel my cuddly, purring cat curled up next to me and feel needed and important. I feel love when I think about Boyfriend snoozing away blissfully down the hall, and that he’ll still be there for in the morning, not judging, loving me just the way I am.
Love is here. And it’s so much stronger than the other guys.