Monday, October 3, 2011

Life Unplugged(ish)

As you can see, I'm back to one of my favorite past times- writing on the internet about how I spend too much time on the internet. Several people have asked me to share about my week-long internet fast, so here it is, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Many of you may already know I've battled anxiety for several years now. For those that don't, the quick recap is: I started having terrible panic attacks my sophomore year of college, became afraid to leave my dorm room, and had difficulty even attending work or classes. I dropped 15lbs in 2 months because I was constantly sick to my stomach. My wonderful boss-at-the-time encouraged me to go to counseling and after 6 months of therapy and digging deep with God, I've been fortunate to never have had such an extreme cycle of anxiousness again.

As a side note, for those who've never been to counseling and only seen the hollywood version, it's a lot of work. They aren't there to solve your problems for you, but to help you learn how to approach them in a more healthy way. The counselor does more asking than telling and there is homework in between. I know not all counselors are created equal, but I was blessed to have a great experience.

However, to say I am cured would be kidding myself. I still go through more difficult cycles. I even have an occasional panic attack. So what does all this have to do with my internet addiction? The first thing I noticed in my week off of the internet is that I use the constant, easy access to new information to self-medicate my anxiety (I don't take actual medicine for it since other techniques have been just as effective in my case and have fewer side effects). If I can keep my brain constantly engaged in learning, pondering, etc., it doesn't leave room for the fearful thoughts to crowd in.

Not having blogs, news and facebook (all constantly updating with something new!) to use as a crutch, I found myself having to actually face the issues that were making me anxious and bring them before God in prayer (a novel thought for a believer, I know).

I also noticed a drastic improvement in my memory. I'd been blaming my constant forgetfulness on "mommy brain", but apparently, not being distracted by checking facebook 30 times a day and not filling my brain with a steady stream of new stories and facts leaves plenty of room for thoughts like, "switch laundry to the dryer" and "your keys are on the dining room table".

Apparently, all those interruptions were also cutting into my productivity around the house (this post is full of shockers!). Despite the fact that David ended up working crazy hours all week, the house stayed cleaner than ever. Now that my fast has ended I'm careful to ask myself, "Is there something else that I could be using this time for" before I sit down at the computer.

In the end, the fast was a lot easier than I expected. I didn't get the shakes or really even feel all that deprived. In fact, now that I'm "back" I'm sort of wondering how I ever spent so much time on facebook. I find it much easier to open, spend 10 minutes, and close the tab than I would have ever thought possible. That said, the fast wasn't as internet free as I was envisioning at the beginning.

I didn't read blogs or the news, I only used facebook to answer an invite to a playdate (I left my 24 notifications alone all week), but I still checked my email a lot. Partially because that's how David contacts me when he's at work and he was working crazy hours and updating me as needed, but I could also tell I was desiring the same "instant updates" from my inbox that I usually get from facebook.

I also ended up researching car seats since Caleb is about to finally outgrow his infant seat so that took up a lot of my time for 2 days. Overall, the greatest gift the fast gave me was a clearer picture of what is worth spending my time on and what is distracting me from prayer and living the life I have here in front of me. I wasn't sure if I'd be back this week, but I decided I didn't want to miss another week of sharing photos with the grandparents, sharing a special moment from our day in my status update or seeing photos of my best friend's newborn and my nephew. These are the things that are wonderful about the internet.

I still feel like I have a lot of growing to do, especially in the area of self-discipline to stick to my boundaries (like checking facebook once in the morning and once in the evening and not in between. Or having my laptop lid shut while Caleb is awake). Before the fast, I always felt like I needed to keep up with each website (facebook, blogs, news, etc.) to be sure I wasn't "missing something". This week has shown me that the only thing I was really missing was my life. So once again, no joyful proclamation that all my struggles are over, but now you know how this most recent step in my journey went.

And, right now, life is calling from the nursery : )

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