Uphill Starts
Emma Oulton

Getting My Life Back Together, One App at a Time

6:30ish — I guess the time I wake up based on how light it is. There are no clocks in the whole floor except at the nurses’ station. I lay in bed, looking through windows made opaque for some strange hospital reason.

6:37- I ask the nurses if they’ll open up the showers for me. I also ask for a new set of socks.

7:00- I sit in bed cross-legged, half-meditating half-sleeping. I think about how my wet hair chills my back and neck.

8:00- The breakfast cart comes up right on time today. I sit next to Danielle, Viktor, and Chris. Hard boiled egg, bacon, home fries, milk, orange juice, peach yogurt, fruit loops. The fruit loops went to Chris.

I chronicled every moment of the first few days I spent in the hospital. I wrote every time I went to the bathroom, every thing I got on my plate and which of those things I ate, when they took my blood, when they gave me meds, when we had group, and every time someone got dragged off the voluntary floor and down to the involuntary floor.

At first I did it because I thought it would be easier to remember the experiences. I know that the side effect of a lot of meds they gave me was impaired memory, and that paired with my already shoddy memory thanks to mental disorders, I wanted to remember what was going on. But the habit became a necessity. I needed to write everything down. I needed to be able to keep track of my life, something I have never been able to do in the past. The flimsy journal given out at the nurses’ station upon arrival was filled with my itinerary. I wrote everywhere; on the back of mindfulness activity papers, the back of coloring pages, all over the journal. It didn’t matter where it was. It mattered that I did something about it.

After the first few days, I relaxed a little with the writing. I used the writing as a coping skill, and as I got less anxious at the hospital (as they pumped me full of sedative anxiety meds), I didn’t need it so much. I began just relaxing, and soon I was discharged.

But life on the outside isn’t so easy. I was no longer surrounded by people who understood my disorders and knew that I couldn’t always take care of myself. The people I was surrounded by didn’t understand that sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed, and that I couldn’t always control my actions. I tried to write to chronicle again, but I was so sedated by my meds that I often didn’t have the energy to pick up a pen and paper. It worried me. My depression, already largely unassuaged by my current treatment, grew, and with it my anxiety did as well. I couldn’t get out of bed anymore. I could barely even speak.

I turned to apps. Social media became larger for me than ever, and I ended up spending much of my time on tumblr and Twitter. These sites usually reward you the more you go on and check them, and so I checked them everyday. I tweeted. I blogged. I knew that if I checked tumblr and Twitter I’d be “rewarded”- I’d have new content to stare at and respond to. I then found Neko Atsume- I could now track my rewards with silver and gold fish as I checked for stray cats in my virtual yard. On youtube I found channels that both interested me and posted on a schedule, and as I watched the videos their thumbnails would turn gray and have “WATCHED” written on them. I found Duolingo, which urged me each day to practice French, Polish, and German. I found the S Health app that came with my phone, which helped me track the food I ate, the steps I took, how much I slept, and my heart rate. I even found an app that tracked when I went to the bathroom. And, oddly enough, these things gave me the thing I need more than anything: structure.

I realized why I needed to write things down at the hospital; I needed to see my progress. I needed a visual representation of my life, because I needed to see that I was really there and really alive and really doing something, anything, with my life. These apps helped me see myself in a way I never did before- as something real.

It was like I was a whole new person. The progress I made with social media and game apps gave me the confidence to start doing things in real life again, and then health apps helped me track real life, which then gave me motivation to keep going in real life. I got my life back one app at a time.

As time went on, I didn’t need apps as much anymore. I stopped obsessively cramming languages into my brain, and I stopped tweeting and reblogging so much. I got enough energy to be able to cope with real life in more productive ways than apps, and it’s almost like I’m a real human being now.

I still check for cats everyday, though. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop doing that :3

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