In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly refers to her anxiety and depression as 'the mean reds’ – the sudden and horrible feeling of being afraid but not knowing why or what you’re afraid of.
As someone who is all too familiar with this feeling, rather than waste an hour or more on the bus and then train to the city, only to stare longingly at jewellery that (as an aspiring writer) I’ll probably never be able to afford, and to avoid the embarrassment of being asked by the sales attendant to leave because I’ve salivated all over the glass counter, I have found my perfect Tiffany’s substitute.
It’s nothing illicit, and it’s not even shovelling copious amounts of Nutella into my mouth, straight from the jar, but my phone (i.e. the shiny metal pacifier) that I instinctively turn to when loneliness and depression rear their ugly heads.
While my smartphone may not have a PHD in psychology (yet), it not only offers a temporary distraction from icky thoughts and feelings, but engenders a sense of security and familiarity that I find hard to resist.
Most of the time, when I’m only feeling a little bit ‘off’ or I’ve had a tiring and stressful day, I like to cheer myself up with cute animal videos. Because whether you like cats, dogs, ferrets, or even miniature goats – you name it, I like them all – nothing quite stems the beginnings of a full-blown existential crisis like a cute animal video.
But sometimes, when the beating in my chest becomes so loud and fast it feels as if my heart’s about to explode, I notice that my phone use becomes less about distracting myself, and more about consciously engaging in an activity that magnifies all of my pre-existing insecurities.
In those moments, I’m driven by a need to validate myself, and therefore engage in the normalised, but emotionally depleting, ritual of Facebook stalking. Whereby I dredge up the past by throwing myself headfirst, down the rabbit hole of estranged friends and exes in the hope that maybe, just maybe, what I discover will make me feel better about myself as a person. Obviously, it doesn’t. I end up feeling miserable and pathetic, because drawing from comparisons is not the best recipe for happiness.
So why do it, then?
Depression is a lot like leading a double life, and becoming somebody else, somebody you hardly even recognise or like, is incredibly frightening. This is what makes it so difficult to reach out to people for help. It’s a vicious cycle of being too afraid to open up in case you’re misunderstood or judged, so you isolate yourself instead.
Having realised the link between my phone and my depression gives me hope more than anything. I know it’s not a long-term solution. And I have friends and a family who all love and support me, and I know my phone will never be an adequate substitute for them. The illusion that we’re virtually connected doesn’t achieve anything when you feel like you’re actually alone. So the next time I feel ‘the mean reds’ coming on, I’m going to pick up my phone for the right reasons, and organise something that will take me out, far away from the negativity and closer towards the people who make me happy.
Bianca Hunter wrote this piece for us on behalf of batyr, who want to encourage young people to share their story in a safe way. You can check out the “Being Herd” section of their site to learn to share your mental health story.
If you need any additional support with managing anxiety or depression, you can always call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat to someone online at eHeadspace. <3