A few months ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook memories when my attention was captured by a post I made in 2015. And it read, “I wonder if I’ll ever be happy again.”
The post caught me off-guard because I don’t remember writing it. And, while I used to be a fan of nihilistic humor at the time, it was unlike me to vaguely post something so dark and serious. When I clicked on the post, I realized the privacy settings were limited so that I was the only person who could see it.
I’m not sure why I shared it on Facebook, or why the privacy settings were so limited. It felt like a future diary entry that I knew only I could see. One thing’s for sure though – it reminded me that I’m lucky to have eventually found that happiness which I thought I’d lost.
I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook’s ‘On This Day’ app. At times, it can be triggering for me. They include previous posts about abusive partners I’ve struggled to forget, photographs from traumatic stages in my life, and other tiny reminders of my trauma. I have PTSD, which means these memories are really difficult to view. For that reason, I don’t often look through the app.
But there’s an upside to seeing those upsetting posts too. They remind me that my life was difficult and that things have vastly improved since then in the space of a few years.
Some of the most difficult experiences of my life happened between 2013 and 2016. In this time period, I was more active on Facebook than in previous years because I had solid access to the internet. My posts from this time remind me of the difficulties I had gone through – hating university, having an awful immune system, battling anxiety, changing universities, enduring toxic and abusive partners, losing friends, experiencing multiple sexual assaults, dropping out of university.
Those posts remind me of the times I’ve wanted to give up, the suicidal thoughts, and the feeling of wanting to disappear because life was too hard. I ached to be free of the pain that surrounded me.
So now, when I read these memories, I desperately want to hug my past self – I want her to know that she’ll be okay, I want to tell her not to give up because the places she’ll go and the people she’ll meet will be worth all the pain one day. I want to tell her about the food she’ll eat, the cats she’ll adopt, and the friendships she’ll nurture.
I want to tell my past self that she’ll find a happiness sweeter than she’s ever felt before.
But I obviously can’t do that – we can’t time-travel and we can’t send posts backward through social media. What I can do, though, is take away one major lesson from all this – things can improve.
Our social media posts are often like time capsules. When we look back at our posts from years ago, we don’t just read what we’ve written – we remember the context, the environment we were in, and the feelings we were experiencing back then. When we share an old post from 2009 WhEn Yu TyPed LyKK thiSS***, we’re not just cringing at the way we typed. We’re cringing at our awkward, pre-pubescent selves, who were so keen on following a trend that we didn’t mind taking an extra few minutes to type out a post while alternating the case.
We remember how much we’ve grown since then. Likewise, when we see our posts from dark periods in our lives, we’re hit with a bundle of emotion and we might recoil at the memory of the pain we faced.
I’m always overcome with tenderness when I think about myself when I was a younger, more vulnerable human. I yearn to treat my past self gently, and while I can’t take care of her – I know I can take care of myself in the present.
I often gaslight myself, thinking that my experiences couldn’t possibly have been as difficult as I think it was, but that’s not true – those experiences were hellish, and these posts prove it.
This reminds me of my resilience. I realize I’m in a much better place than I was a few years ago, and I’m confident that there’s no way to go but up. These reminders fuel me with self-love and with a resolve to practice self-care.
Millennials are often criticized for the fact that we record everything on the internet. We’re also criticized for treating our social media accounts like diaries, but there are many upsides to the ways we share our lives over the internet. And one upside is that it can provide us with tools for introspection and healing. These historical records keep notes of our individual growth, and sometimes, those notes are what we need to motivate ourselves to heal.
As annoying as Facebook’s ‘On This Day’ function may be, there’s something amazing about remembering how far I’ve come.