It took me a long time to become more open about my mental health. It took many years of survival, personal development, and therapy to get where I am today. During my childhood and adolescent years, I constantly wrestled with severe anxiety and depression and I had never felt so unsafe and alone. I was scared. I felt different, flawed, and inadequate. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me and I felt as if I was the only one going through this and feeling this way. By my early twenties, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to feel so alone and ashamed anymore. I wanted to speak openly about my struggles. I wanted to write about them. I wanted to connect with others who had been through similar experiences and help them. I wanted to make a difference to this crucial, yet taboo topic and change the mindset surrounding mental health that it is okay and necessary to talk about it. I hated living with this “secret” and feeling as though I was unworthy because of a diagnosis. I hated being and feeling judged by people who were uninformed and ignorant to such conditions so I started to use my voice. I became more and more comfortable when it came to discussing my feelings and my many struggles surrounding my mental health. Writing has become a great outlet for me and I have met so many people along the way who have shared their experiences with me. It is truly comforting and healing and it is also rewarding when people open up to me and tell me that I’ve helped them by being so transparent. Suddenly, they didn’t feel so alone either.
Judgment, So Much Judgment
Though I have been writing openly about mental health and my experiences since 2011, I have also come across my share of obstacles that prevented me from continuing to be as open as I once was. I definitely consider myself to be a strong woman who does not back down from what she believes in no matter what. I am that person who won’t change my beliefs or opinions just to fit in because it goes against my own morals and values. With that said, I still care greatly what others think of me, as most of us do whether we admit to it or not. Due to that fact, there have been some challenging years where my writing and blogging just stopped for a while. Part of it was because life became incredibly busy as a full-time college student and then a mom, but I honestly place some of the blame on those who judged me and made me feel wrong for sharing such “personal” information online. I was met with a great deal of criticism on how what I shared was no one’s business and basically labeled it as negative. Some would tell me flat out that I shouldn’t post certain things. Some told me that these aren’t topics to be talked about. Some responded to my posts with ignorant and hurtful comments that showed how very little understanding they had on the subject and my life. Some just made me feel insecure and foolish. Though I strongly disagree with how they viewed it, I could see that it truly made those people uncomfortable and it was affecting the way they were relating with me. Instead of praising my bravery and success, they belittled it and judged me. Some may ask why I care so much about what a stranger would think, but that’s the issue, it wasn’t just a stranger. Some of them were family and friends whose opinions mattered so much to me at the time. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to feel worthy and loved. I wanted them to like me and think positively about me.
No More Pleasing
After a while, I gave up trying to please everyone else when I noticed that no matter what I did or said, I would still be condemned and talked about. I found that there wasn’t much I could do to prove I was worthy or good enough and it has caused me to become more distant and cautious with certain people. While I still do care and take to heart what others think of me, I am no longer letting their opinions and comments run my life or dictate what I should or shouldn’t do. I truly wish that the people who judge those who discuss their struggles with mental health openly would understand why people do it. It’s not for attention or sympathy. It’s not being negative. People choose to talk openly because it’s healing and it is helpful to be able to discuss difficult topics such as these. Talking about mental health is healthy and it saves lives. It definitely saved mine…
It’s Not You, It’s Them
Many who tend to judge and react this way to people who share openly about their mental health stories are just simply not comfortable with it or used to it. They are people that you can’t turn to or open up to as they are incapable of understanding. Sometimes this is incredibly difficult to accept when it’s a family member or friend, but not everyone is capable of giving you the support you need or long for. Those who judge others for being brave and transparent may actually be struggling with insecurities and fear which causes them to close themselves off, bury feelings, and instead judge those who are able to share their stories. These types of individuals ultimately try to shut down the conversation and silence anyone who brings up a topic that is difficult for them to face.
The lesson I learned through this experience is to never let anyone else make you feel crazy or wrong for sharing your story and for speaking up about mental health or any other topic you wish to bring change and attention to. You are allowed to share at whatever level you are comfortable with and you deserve to do so unapologetically. We must keep talking and we must keep sharing, but we may also need to be mindful of who has access to us and what we share with whom.