Here at Girls’ Globe, we believe that storytelling is a way to bring about real change in the world. It’s something I believe in wholeheartedly.
However, there is one issue in particular that I have written extensively about. I sometimes wonder if I should actually write about it. What are the real costs of doing so for me and the people in my life?
The issue is mental health.
The internet – social media in particular – has made talking about our mental health struggles easier and more accessible than ever before. Without leaving our homes, which we may be bound to due to anxiety or depression, we can share our experiences, read others’ stories, and connect with people who understand our struggles. We can feel, even if just a little, less alone.
Sharing publicy about issues that are still taboo and stigmatized in modern society can come with costs and consequences. Online trolls are always ready to dismiss or doubt our experiences, struggles and accounts of what has happened to us.
Ever since I wrote my first post about my mental health on girlsglobe.org over two years ago, I’ve questioned my decision to be so open in such a public way about something I’ve hidden from others my whole life.
And then I wrote about it again – and then again and again and again. I wrote publicly, on the internet, for all to see. I also started sharing my mental health struggles on social media – sometimes just to my friends and at other times more widely.
Every time I press ‘send’, I feel a wave of anxiety but also a sense of relief.
On the one hand, writing publicly about my mental health struggles has been incredibly healing. It has helped me connect with others who are also struggling. I’ve received heart-warming comments from people thanking me for talking about something so stigmatized and telling me that my experience resonates with them.
On the other, writing about my struggles with anxiety and depression make me feel vulnerable and I fear people’s reaction. I fear what people who know me personally may think about me, since they’ll usually see me looking and acting so ‘well’ and ‘normal’.
I fear that sharing my personal stories of mental illness may harm my academic and work life, and even personal relationships.
What if a future date looks me up online, reads one of my mental health stories, and decides he doesn’t want to go out with me anymore? What are the costs of giving someone I’m still getting to know in person access to such a deep and intimate glimpse into my life online?
People have told me I’m brave and strong for being so honest and open about my mental health. This has been crucial to my healing. To talk about my anxiety and depression as something outside of myself has helped me realize that I’m more than my mental health issues (even though I still struggle to fully accept this).
But talking about it is still hard.
I still worry about how sharing my struggles may affect my life. Will it cost me friendships and romantic relationships? Will it cost me respect from colleagues and employers?
I don’t have a concrete answer, but I do know this: I want to live in a world where sharing our struggles about mental health or any other issue considered stigmatized will be accepted and respected. I want to be around people who accept vulnerability as a strength and not a weakness.
Most of all, I want to live what I say. And so, scared and all, I’ll keep sharing my story, because it’s one of the ways I’ve been healing. And maybe, reading my story may help someone in their healing journey. That makes all the costs feel worth it.