Monday was World Mental Health day; a fact I only found out when my sister posted about it on Twitter. After finding out about the day, something compelled me to do two things I never do: post a lot and share my very personal business. And that is how I posted a series of Facebook statuses talking about my own struggle with mental illness.
I don’t like to share my personal baggage ever. Even my psychologist was surprised at how much I was able to hide behind a smile and bubbly personality. Basically, I have an A+ in suppressing my emotions. However, on I shared a lot of personal fears and struggles. I still feel strange and very vulnerable about what I posted and there were things I said that very few people knew. Despite my initial apprehension, everyone was wonderful and I got so much support from so many unexpected people. It was very positive to see all the people who not only supported me, but the issue of mental health awareness.
One word kept coming up again and again: Brave. This word stood out to me because I hadn’t really considered my actions as brave and I don’t really want them to be. Bravery means there could potentially be negative consequences. If my posting was brave, then that means there is the potential of bad things. I don’t want anything bad to happen just because I shared what is happening with me. But I have no control over my words now that they are out there, and for many people, sharing these kinds of words do have consequences. I posted a statistic (see list below) about employers and mental illness and how being upfront about it can damage careers. I am lucky that my current employers have been very understanding and supportive of my condition, but that might not always be the case. Maybe I should just become a reclusive writer where having a mental illness seems to be more of job requirement.
After my posts, I also wonder if I did any good. As the type of person who actively defriends people who I don’t find interesting/don’t contribute to my life, my reach with Facebook is not that wide. I know that many of my friends already see mental health as an important issue, so I may have just been speaking into the echo chamber.
Maybe none of this really matters. Maybe it is fine if there are no outside ripples from my posts, because I know that doing this has had an impact on me. It has shown me what a wonderful and supportive community I have and has shown me that I am able to speak up on issues that I see as important. I am naturally a shy person, and for years every single social media post gave me anxiety as I carefully considered the impact of every word. Looking back at these posts, they seem like hallow representations of the life and struggles I had.
This summer I decided I was tired of social media. I was tired of the pressure and tired of the anxiety so I stopped posting. I don’t think I posted a single thing from May to August. I didn’t even post Instagram pictures of my trip to South Africa. Honestly, it was nice. I enjoyed no longer worrying about what others would thing and how what I was posting was not as good as what everyone else posted. Then I took my creative non-fiction class at the end of the summer and it made me realize that I would have to get back on social media if I wanted to make it as a writer. I hopped back on and tried to be more active, but some how I am more peaceful about it now. Maybe it was the class, maybe it was the fact that I am regulated on medication, but I no longer feel paralyzed about posting things. Maybe I have become more “brave” or maybe I finally realized that these actions don’t really require bravery. Maybe, after facing the struggles with depression that required a strength I didn’t know I had, simply writing a post, not matter how vulnerable, seems easy in comparison.
This all lead to me posting a multiple statuses discussing my mental health, spamming Facebook even though I promised myself I would never be one of “those people.” And it didn’t turn out so bad. My husband says I like to overthink things, and that’s probably what I’m doing here. But I wanted to share with you my thought process and I wanted to understand it more myself.
These are the links I shared on Facebook during my posting session, in case you’re interested.
International Business Times: “7 Mental Illness Myths That Need Unlearning”
WebMD: “Causes of Bipolar Disorder”
Mental Health Foundation: “Depression has been linked to: 67% increased risk of death from heart disease [and] 50% increased risk of death from cancer.”
World Health Organization: “more than 40% of countries have no mental health policy and over 30% have no mental health programme…About 25% of countries, however, do not have the three most commonly prescribed drugs used to treat schizophrenia, depression and epilepsy at the primary health care level. There is only one psychiatrist per 100 000 people in over half the countries in the world, and 40% of countries have less than one hospital bed reserved for mental disorders per 10 000 people.”
Mental Health America: “57.2% of adults with a mental illness received no treatment in 2012-2013,” and ” One out of five (20.1%) adults with a mental illness report they are not able to get the treatment they need. “
Medscape: “Surveys of US employers show that half of them are reluctant to hire someone with past psychiatric history or currently undergoing treatment for depression, and approximately 70% are reluctant to hire someone with a history of substance abuse or someone currently taking antipsychotic medication.”