Being a new parent can be lonely. There, I’ve said it.
When I had my son I missed the office banter – witticisms can get lost on a teething baby. I joked that if I hadn’t used my ‘word count’ by the time my husband got home, he would be the recipient of a deluge of one-sided conversation..like a verbal tidal wave.
The point I’m getting to is that, while there are studies out there that suggest social media is harmful, encourages narcissism and brings about low self esteem through comparison with friends’ airbrushed photos on desolate tropical beaches, there is still a strong argument for its benefits. Like any other platform out there, it’s about how you use it and the attitude you take with you into your conversations.
I’m a regular participant in #pndhour, the weekly twitter chat, and inspired brainchild of Rosey Wren of @PNDandMe fame, which brings together people from across the globe to talk openly and honestly about their experience of perinatal illness. It’s brought many a reassuring smile to my face of a Wednesday evening, as I’ve chatted frenetically with the most wonderful people from all corners of the globe, all united in a passionate belief to share experiences and bring PND out of the shadows.
My overriding feeling each week is a glow of reassurance and a restoration of my faith in the human collective to nurture each other (and often virtual strangers) through incredibly rough times. I affectionately call the #PNDFamily a ‘giant reassuring comfort blanket’ which alleviates the isolation brought about through PND that often makes people feel so alone and so alienated.
When I was in the depths of PND four years ago, I turned to the internet for my social connectivity when I felt unable to discuss my innermost fears with friends and family. It gave me a sanctuary of reassurance that I was not alone and that it would get better.
This sense of ‘togetherness’ and the restorative powers of connecting with others going through a similar experience is what encouraged me and @tweety3142 to set up The SMILE Group three and a half years ago, to establish regular peer support sessions where people can relax, chat and drink tea in a welcoming, non-judgmental setting. Somewhere to indulge in complementary therapy (precious ‘me’ time), talk to a professional counsellor, and who knows, even make life-long friendships.
The social networking is a natural extension of this. It encourages parents to talk to us who might not have the confidence to come to group and just need a bit of reassurance. It’s also connected us to some amazing, influential national campaigners in the perinatal mental health world and brought us together with others who firmly believe there is a better way to provide consistent care and support on a national level. Together, we are a powerhouse not to be underestimated.
So, rather than being a ‘silly fad’ or a social epidemic that is damaging wellbeing, I think there is a valid place for social media as a means of connecting people and bringing them together in a way that just wasn’t possible before the digital explosion. Let’s not be flippant about it either – many participants in #pndhour also say it’s played a significant part in their recovery, alongside professional support, medication, peer group attendance and talk therapy.
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