I’m writing this in the wake of sharing a very personal experience online. I shared it because I thought I should. If I wanted to start a movement to share personal stories around mental illness, then I had to be the first one to do it – without remaining anonymous.
I always thought others were scared of sharing their secrets, and that I was endowed with superior strength and power to not feel any shame or anxiety in sharing my experiences at all.
But since I shared it this morning, I’ve been feeling distinctly uncomfortable. I’m constantly looking to see who has what to say, and fantasizing about various particular people whose reactions may not otherwise matter to me, but for some reason, right now I can’t help but wonder how they’ll be judging me.
Perhaps they’ll say nasty things about me. That wouldn’t worry me so much. What really is eating me up and not letting me get on with my day are two things –
1. Are they questioning my motivation to share? It shouldn’t bother me, but it does.
See, I’m mostly a stranger to Facebook, and here I am, suddenly posting a very intimate part of my life. And it’s only right if anyone wonders why I’ve decided to do so. After all, a large part of our waking and thinking lives is shaped by social media. It consumes our time, and shapes how we think of others. with every post, we add a new layer to each individual that we hold in our minds. and with this post, I’ve started that process in the minds of people for me. And that’s bothering me.
I don’t know how people write about their lives online. I don’t understand why they want to share every detail of their day with others. but they do, and they seem to like it. like I said, it’s a very consuming part of our lives now. It’s great to share recipes, and it’s great to share travel experiences. It’s also great to share cancer and diabetes experiences. It’s possibly also very rewarding to share your experiences of fetishes, and other sexually explicit content. It’s exciting and sensational.
But what on earth do you do when you have to share about mental health? It’s great when you’re reading other people’s stories; it’s great when you’re sitting at your desk editing other people’s articles. It’s great when you’re in the therapist’s chair, giving an understanding nod to the other, but what happens when shit hits the ceiling, and you find yourself in the middle of a mental health crisis?
Suddenly, it’s embarrassing. Suddenly I’m wondering about reactions. There is so much blame. There are so many people involved, so many egos to hurt. And I’m not saying this sarcastically. Well maybe a little. But that doesn’t take away from the potential number of people that can get affected, nay, judged, with every read.
Here I am though. Just took the plunge, and posted it. It’s been a couple of hours. And I obviously find myself in a serious need to purge these thoughts off of me.
2. The other thing that is eating me is this – Why does it feel so awful to share? Shouldn’t it feel good?
What will legitimize my sharing? Likes on facebook? Can anyone feel my discomfort? Is there any courage in not remaining anonymous? All these questions and no answers. It was hard enough writing it, and now I’ve gone ahead and shared – voluntarily. I didn’t even post my wedding photos. I’ve graduated straight to posting this – this narrative of a loss. A loss of a life, a loss of memory, a loss of dignity, and a loss of clear judgment.
So why go through all this? Is it all for nothing?
Its been exactly one week since I shared my story, and I wrote this two hours after that. I’ve been stewing in it since. Then this happened –
I was sharing my anxiety with Krutika (the co-founder of TSC, and a friend), and she mentioned that someone she knows was going through something similar. They read my article, and it sparked some constructive thoughts and consequent changes in their lives. I can’t share the details – that’s their story. But I did feel better; I didn’t feel as much joy as I felt a surge of relief.
So now I finally feel confident enough to share this anxious rant, because I got my closure. It wasn’t for nothing.
It made an impact on at least one other person.
Editor’s note: It was both tough to share the original piece and this, my own reaction to it. I feel compelled to say that sharing often brings angst with it, and we feel the need to justify it. But perhaps what needs to be understood is that the angst is itself cathartic; it doesn’t need a justification. Maybe we just have to patiently go through it, to come out just a little stronger. So please find courage to share your stories, and to accept those of others with an open mind and warm heart.