Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What I Learned During my Facebook Break

On September 1, I started a Facebook break. My doctor actually recommended in back in April, but I put it off because of our move at that time - from the Netherlands, to New Jersey, via California. That's a common path, right?!?! ;)


My doctor (who is amazing) recommended the break for a few reasons:
1.  I'm highly empathetic, apparently. When I see an announcement that a friend's grandma died, I grieve with that friend and, according to some studies, my brain doesn't recognize much of a difference between my friend's grandma and my own. When I see a political rant, I can't help but think deeply about what might be going on in someone's life that causes them to be so angry! I know that sounds strange, but I've accepted that I'm just wired that way. It doesn't matter if I haven't seen her in 20 years, I remember how it felt to be with her, I may remember meeting her grandmother, or seeing her picture on the wall, or who knows. I just feel. I feel it all. The good news about this is that I know how other people feel, so I can genuinely put myself in their shoes. Unfortunately, it's not a good thing when it comes to autoimmunity. When a person, such as myself, is in a constant (or near-constant) state of emotional stress, the immune system gets majorly tweaked, and, in my case, causes an autoimmune reaction. Facebook is a major source of "news" - and most folks are posting the hard stuff going on in their lives. Apparently, I've been absorbing all the hard stuff and holding on to it. I needed to learn how to process emotional hard stuff and deal with it more effectively.
2.  Facebook is a time trap. All the time I typically spend browsing online needed to be dedicated to healing. At the time, I needed 12 hours of sleep at night and a two-hour nap each day. Plus 25-30 minutes of guided relaxation and some yoga. So … not a lot of time leftover for good ol' Facebook browsing.
3.  Because I'd felt so disconnected from several important relationships while in the Netherlands, my doctor felt that I needed to focus on creating a new community "offline" in New Jersey. His theory was that a lot of computer time would keep me stuck in a pattern of old relationships and our past living situation, and that it would take longer for me to form new relationships in our new hometown.
4.  I had a couple of online relationships that were really stressing me out. By taking a break from Facebook, my doctor thought I'd be able to reflect a bit and decide whether or not I was handling these relationships in the right way.
5.  All of the above were emotional factors contributing to my severe adrenal fatigue and sending me dangerously close to a 2nd autoimmune diagnosis of Addison's disease. When you have Addison's, it's particularly hard to heal other diseases in your body and it was making my antiphospholipid syndrome symptoms/blood levels worse.

I can share with you now, I was so skeptical. I thought my doctor had completely gone off the deep end. After all, I thought….

Facebook keeps me connected to friends across the miles. 

It's not really impacting me that much. 

I'm not online as much as most people I know. 

People won't know that I care about them if I don't say "happy birthday" on their walls!

Yes, that last one was a legitimate concern. Hahaha … isn't it funny how life tends to bring out our inner crazy??

So, I put off the change for a few months, but finally, in September, I decided to give it a try.

I started my break on September 1. I just took a break from my personal page on Facebook. I kept my Instagram account, and continued to maintain my business pages for my blogs, as well as the social media accounts I still manage for my old consulting clients. All of which I was able to do from my phone, skipping the need to long onto my personal Facebook page from my computer.

And, lo and behold ….


Like, for real.

I guess I really shouldn't be shocked. He's an MD, he's got lots of experience in functional medicine and he's super smart and compassionate.

When I started my Facebook break, I had that Addison's disease lurking in my background. After the 6th week, we got the great news that it was officially no longer a problem. My adrenal function had completely returned to normal. All specialists thought that it would take 12-18 months to get these levels back and I achieved that in less than 6. PRAISE THE LORD! 

When I started my Facebook break, I was still sleeping 11 hours a night and required a daily nap. I'm happy to share that I'm now "nap-free." If I want to take a nap, I still do, but it's no longer a requirement.

When I started my Facebook break, I was massively insecure and dreading connecting with other people here in NJ. I felt that, because of my illness, I needed to hide out and just be quiet for a while. Now, we're hosting a missional community ("small group") for our church in our home and I've signed on to get a new Just Moved ministry group started in our community.

When I started my Facebook break, I had a lot of relationships that were a cause for worry. Staying off Facebook for a while, and connecting directly with these folks via text, email, phone and in-person visits allowed me to figure a bunch of things out. For the sake of these other individuals, I'll keep the details private.

When I started my Facebook break, I never felt like I had time. For anything. Other than healing. Some of that feeling was legit. It's HARD, in this day and age, for a type A former "go-getter" to rest that much. But, a lot of the time I felt like I didn't have was there the whole time. I was just wasting it on Facebook. As I got it back, I started reading through my Bible - a lot. I'm on day #73 of a "read through your Bible in 90 days" plan. I've loved that. I've read more in general - and I've actually been keeping up with my blogs.

So, today I'll be coming back to Facebook-land, but with a much different perspective…
- I'm going to be much more clear about what Facebook is - and is not - for me. I hope this post doesn't come across as a long Facebook rant. I think it's a wonderful connection platform - and there's no way I'd be able to stay connected to many wonderful friends without it. But, I'm also aware now that, if I'm going to continue to keep a personal page (and use it), I'm going to need to establish some boundaries.
- I'm going to be a little more selective about who I friend on Facebook. I want (and need) my Facebook experiences to be more positive than negative, and I want to use the platform to continue building the relationships that are meaningful to me.
- I'm going to use Facebook as a tool to build and maintain deep, healthy, meaningful relationships. I'm not going to stop the phone calls, the Skype calls, the texts and email habits I've established in the last couple of months. I'm not going to let Facebook be the only (or primary) source of communication with the people who are dear to me. I'm going to continue working hard to make friends who are here with me, in my local community, and not place such a big emphasis on my online relationships. I'm going to make an attempt to visit people near me more often. I want to hug necks, kiss babies and deliver meals. All of that requires presence in person.
- Instagram is going to be my primary social media focus. I really love it! I didn't use it much while I was spending a lot of time on Facebook, but since I've been off, I've really enjoyed it. I love seeing the pictures everyone posts - unlike FB, Instagram seems to be a big collection of happy thoughts.

Why today, for my comeback?

About three weeks into this process, I told my husband I wasn't going to come back - I was just going to leave Facebook for good. But, in my prayers in the last couple of weeks, lots of my Dutch friends' faces have been popping up. I miss them - and it's just really hard to connect with them from so far away. I felt that the Holy Spirit was guiding me back to Facebook, but with a new mindset.

I'm a little nervous about it, to be honest. I've made a ton of progress in the 2+ months I've been off Facebook and don't want to see it go to waste. But, I feel really confident that I can now manage my Facebook time in a way that's healthy and beneficial. If I'm wrong, then I know I can always go ahead and leave the site. Without any guilt or hesitation.

So, there ya have it. I'm amazed you're reading this line - and thanks for sticking with me through this long post. I share all of this because I genuinely hope it's helpful to someone who's stuck in the early stages of an autoimmune diagnosis. My prayer is that this reaches every single person who can be helped by it.

With lots of love and prayers from New Jersey…


  1. Marvellous ! same thought on “All of that requires presence in person”. Something happened last week, God prompts us to do visitation. Wef Nov, my husband and I plan to visit one family in a month as both of us work fulltime. To be salt and light, not all people coming to church, we need to reach out to them., let them taste the goodness, greatness & grace of the Lord, bring them out of the darkness into the awesome light. May God use you & be a channel of blessings to many as well. Woooohoooo, let’s shine !

    1. Yay and Amen, J :) That's an awesome thing that you guys are doing - presence is so important. Love and hugs from NJ to the NL - and prayers to God for peace and joy for you and S!!!

    2. Dear Christa, I am almost crying! So happy for you, so happy to read what you write here. Thanks for sharing! We are missing you here in NL, all your family. And we are thinking of you every day, also because of Emma (who would also be happy to see you one day) Christa, you are a hero, really. When I think of what you had to go through... I can't find words. I didn't want to disturb you much bearing in mind all your moves and other things - so happy to see that it's getting better and better. I hope for all of you. You know, you have written exactly what I was thinking about Facebook and not only. I also wanted to stop when I felt it brings me into depression. But then I felt pity I would not be able to communicate with some of my friends anymore or just dear people. So I am in the process of making up a decision. And I agree with you totally about live communication. Still, cause you live so far I have one request - can you give me your postal address? I promise not to overload you with letters but I believe in an old-fashioned way of communication - postal cards and letters) Lots of love and kisses to you all. And big hello. From all of us - me, Frank and Emma)

  2. Beautiful and encouraging post dear Christa!
    I feel that I need to give it a break as well. I want more time with God and for myself.
    May the Lord give you grace, strength and wisdom to overcome all difficulties and fulfill His purposes in your life.
    * * Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future* *

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, P!!! I miss you and Jeroen - Colin asked tonight if you all are coming over for Christmas this year. We'll miss our candlelight services!!!