My last two years of high school were hard. I had grand plans of preparing to attend a prestigious college. But that screeched to a halt when I started waking up every day and crying at the thought of going to school. I was soon diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and encouraged to finish school online at home.
Adjusting to this new reality of remote education and depression felt isolating and soul crushing. While my friends seemed to be thriving and moving forward, I felt like I was being left behind.
So, I coped and escaped from my negative thoughts, emotions, and reality with media use.
Every spare moment, and even moments that weren’t spare, I would watch TV, scroll social media, or play video games—hoping for a never-ending distraction.
Trying to Escape from Reality
For me, behind all these behaviors was escapism—the desire to escape an unpleasant feeling or situation.
As Elder Kelly R. Johnson of the Seventy taught: “Discouragement often leads to distraction, or a lack of focus. Various distractions may lead to a lack of diligence. In our day, there are many distractions, including Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and busy school and work schedules. Distractions can often be good things. The reality is that a distraction doesn’t have to be evil to be effective.”1
I was definitely trying to distract myself from my reality through media. But over time, after I had seemingly streamed every show—once, twice, even five times—all this media seemed to be losing its luster. My difficult feelings were suddenly catching up with me after I had avoided them for so long.
Finding Renewal through Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
I had to decide—was this going to be my life? Constantly glued to screens? I didn’t want it to be.
But these habits were so ingrained in me that I felt like it was impossible to change, and I lacked a lot of motivation to do so. However, as I pleaded for help from Heavenly Father, the Spirit reminded me:
The Lord has the power to create lasting change in you.
Sister Rebecca L. Craven, Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, has taught: “Through Jesus Christ, we are given the strength to make lasting changes. As we humbly turn to Him, He will increase our capacity to change.”2
I started making small efforts toward building better habits. Before turning to streaming, I would read the Book of Mormon and ponder a few chapters each day. I worked to magnify my calling. I served others, and I attended every social and Church activity I could. I also found help for my mental health with spiritual and temporal tools. My bishop referred me to a licensed therapist who understood my faith and my struggles; I followed social media accounts that posted about depression, anxiety, and self-care; and I painted my room brighter colors and opened my window more often.
I turned toward Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ through small means every day, praying that They could help me take charge of my circumstances. I felt Their power working through my actions over time. Every day it became easier to step away from my desires to escape through media. I was gaining more optimism for life.
Making Media Meaningful
Over time I graduated, moved out, got married, graduated college, and had two kids. New habits replaced my old ones and brought me closer to the Spirit and to the people I loved. I felt like “a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
However, I still need renewal through Christ. At times, I’m still tempted to lose myself in media. Who isn’t, when there is access to endless amounts of it in our pockets?
However, I now ask myself a few questions before indulging in media as I try to make my media usage more meaningful:
- Do I have a purpose for watching or playing right now?
- Can I use this media to connect with someone?
- If I am trying to escape my feelings, what else can I do to work through my difficult feelings in a healthier way?
All in all, media use is not inherently bad. But we are counseled to be “temperate in all things” (Doctrine and Covenants 12:8). And Christ can help us use media intentionally to grow, to connect with loved ones, to access spiritual materials, to come closer to Him, and to help us tackle our challenges and become better—not just to escape.
I often remind myself of what He has done for me and what He can do again (and again) as I rely on His grace to build better habits. Through Him, we can face our challenges, be refined, and build a better and more meaningful reality.