Three years ago, during Mental Illness Awareness Week, I decided to share my story of being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I posted a graphic on social media from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) that said 1 in 5 Americans will live with a mental illness. I then wrote:
“Did you know 1 in 5 Americans live with a mental health condition? This means more than likely you know someone living with a mental health condition. I am one of those 1 in 5 Americans. Would you have guessed? Social media can create an amazingly perfect façade for a person’s life when in reality it is a downright struggle on a daily basis. Did you also know a new Mom can suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety 3 years after their baby is born if left untreated?”
I continued my post with, “Mental health still has a huge negative stigma attached to it even though it is so prevalent in our society. New Moms are supposed to float through their postpartum time with grace and happiness. This is just not the reality for everyone. We need to STOP this stigma, we need to help those who are suffering silently with a mental health disorder. Those suffering should not have to suffer alone. There is help and there is hope. I’m speaking out because I have sat silent too long and it’s time to stop the stigma!”
Before I “publicly” shared with the social media world that I had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I posted a lot of cryptic pictures and captions. I shared a lot of photos of self-help books and inspirational quotes. Things I wrote alluded to feeling ‘off’ and ‘overwhelmed’ and I also talked a lot about self-care and being brave. There was an obvious and definite shift in my social media posts that hinted to my struggles but I still shared some upbeat and picture-perfect posts. It was as if I was throwing out these subtle clues about my struggles and I wanted someone to label them since I wasn’t quite ready to do it myself.
The decision to share my story publicly would come a few months after the shift in my social media posts, partly due to my medical care team and medication as well as the support network of my family and friends. After trying talk therapy unsuccessfully, I decided I needed my own form of therapy.
I had always enjoyed writing and many times felt as though I could express myself better on paper than through the spoken word. That led to the decision to start a blog so I could start sharing my journey with mental illness through it and social media posts. After the initial post sharing my diagnosis, I felt this intense release of weight:
I was finally going to be my authentic self again, no social media filters, no lies…this mental illness is me, love it or leave it.
The Result of Sharing My Story
The amount of love that I received from family, friends, and strangers was incredible. I received private messages on my social media platforms, text messages, e-mails, and phone calls from people thanking me for sharing my story and being honest with my struggles. People told me about their own struggles with anxiety and depression, PTSD, and childhood trauma. Many of these people told me they had never shared their journey before but could relate to what I was sharing. That, to me, was the biggest takeaway- people could relate to what I was sharing. My mental health struggles, while unique to myself, were not all that different from the mental health struggles of others.
At the age of 32, I did not really know anyone who had been diagnosed and battled daily with a mental health disorder. I did know there were others out there though. By sharing my story, I thought that I could help open the dialogue about mental health and give others the little push to maybe open up and share their own story. I thought that I could be the start of the ripple effect, the stone dropped into the water that starts small waves of change. Through social media, I truly believe that those waves from three years ago are still going strong and my story may have inspired others to be open about their own mental health struggles.
If sharing my story has resonated with just one person, or has helped another realize that they are not alone, or has opened a dialogue of normalization…. then it is worth it to me to keep sharing!