Since I began my blog, I’ve had many people reach out to me, praising me for my courage and bravery of being so open and so honest about my struggles with my mental health. All of these comments, while incredibly kind and appreciated, really got me questioning whether or not I’m actually as brave and courageous as everyone is saying.
I don’t really feel that what I’m writing about is anything exceptional, nor is my story ridiculously unique. In fact, if there’s one thing I’ve learned since documenting my mental health, it’s that I’m actually pretty basic, and there are so many people, not just within my own community either, who have similar stories of mental health issues.
The difference, though, and what makes me be deemed as courageous, is that I’m putting it out there. I’m taking something that can be seen as a weakness or as embarrassing, and I am publicizing, sharing, and loudly saying “Come look at my flaws!” Some may say I’m opening myself up to judgment or pity, but honestly, I’m doing this to open myself up to conversation.
I’m here to rock the boat about stigmas of mental health. I’m here to normalize discussions of overwhelming emotions and feelings and fears which we all have in various forms, but nobody really talks about. Barely anyone my age is seriously talking about mental health issues, although I’m pretty sure I know a few people that are more than just sad in their current state, but just don’t know how to talk about it or who to talk about it with. I'm here to let everyone know that it’s OK to let your guard down and own and recognize your own mental health struggles.
OK. So I’m done with my introductory rant, let me get into the topic of this blog; Talking about the “M” word...Mental Health. If you’ve been with me through these blogs from the beginning, then you already know how I initially talked to the people I cared about, about my struggles with anxiety and depression. I won’t go into detail about that again here, but if you don’t know and you’re curious how I did it, then click here.
Right now, I want to talk about how (and why & when), I told the new people in my life, here in Ireland, about my anxiety. First of all, let me just say that by no means do you have to wear your mental struggles stamped on your forehead, nor do you have to announce it to everyone you meet. You know your situation better than I do, so I’m just speaking on my own experiences and what has been beneficial for myself.
About a week or two ago my roommate Gabby and I went to a birthday party for a friend of a friend after much debate on whether not we should even go since it was late, we were already cozy in the living room, and we’re both a bit introverted (okay, so I’m not *that* introverted, but i have my moments). Anyway, we ended up going and having a good time for a bit, but decided to come back home to chill. As we got to our apartment, I admitted to Gabby that I was actually relieved to have left the party because I was feeling quite anxious there and overwhelmed by the large amount of people in a very small space.
This statement alone led to Gabby further questioning and noting about anxiety. Then that led to an hour and a half long conversation, past midnight, about each of our struggles with our respective anxieties. I ended up telling her my full story with my struggles with anxiety and even my short time with depression. I spoke about therapy and shared with her my D.A.R.E. book. She told me her own mental health concerns and after sharing our own experiences, our conversation evolved to an entire debate about the mental health struggles of people our age (specifically university students and recent grads). It was a really good conversation and I got to bond with her on a completely new and deeper level.
I share this story to let you know that conversations about mental health don’t have to be forced or incredibly awkward. They don’t have to be sit-down conversations with lots of eye contact. In fact, I prefer when it’s not (of course, some mental illnesses need to be addressed in a more serious manner, but my situation isn’t of that necessity). Conversation can be natural and come organically, like it did with me and Gabby. Since we are likely to be going out together and we live together, I figured she’s bound to witness me when I’m feeling highly anxious, so I might as well tell her ahead of time, sort of as a fair warning. While this conversation wasn’t planned ahead of that specific time, I did have intentions to bring it up eventually.
How my other friends found out, though, was completely unplanned and completely unintentional. Whenever I post a new blog, I always broadcast it to all of my followers on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And whenever I meet new people here in Ireland, our first instinct is to friend or follow each other on all of our social media accounts. I somehow never made the connection between these two actions, so when I posted my last blog on my socials I had my new friends (most of whom I’ve only known for about two weeks and have only had conversations with once or twice) sending me messages and replying to my post saying how much they loved my blog! It really caught me off guard when one of my new friends, JD, text me saying he was reading my blog and that I’ve “got some really good stuff in there.” Instinctively, I reread my blog, trying to recall what “good stuff” he could’ve been talking about and then I remembered I actually referenced him and he’s included in my photos from my last post!
I don’t know why the thought of someone I hardly knew reading my blog made me feel so uncomfortable at first. It’s probably because what I write is personal, and for someone to read it who doesn’t know the full story of my life, they’re probably making judgements about me. I pondered this for awhile, but I eventually concluded that this is exactly what I intended to happen. Not specifically to have strangers reading about my personal struggles, but to have real people reading real stories about my very real struggles & hopefully having a reaction to it.
Everything I post, I post with intent. So if JD, or anyone else I’ve just met read my blog and feel any sort of way about it, then I’ve done what I intended to do. It may feel awkward at first, but many great things in conversations have sprouted from awkwardness before. Also, in hindsight, by JD reading my blog and going through my website, it probably brought us closer, faster, (and without the awkwardness) than we would have been if I hadn’t publicly displayed my blog. I’ll consider that another pro of sharing my story on a public site!
I haven’t had full on, deep conversations discussing my personal mental health battles with any of my new friends yet, but if and when the time comes I’m ready and more than happy to share my story. After all, I tell my stories so that they can one day reach someone who needs to hear them. My content is typical, but my topic of conversation isn’t always easy to discuss, so I hope that by sharing my experiences, I can at least get the awkward conversation started and begin to normalize thoughts and discussions on mental health.
Alright. That’s all I’ve got for now, and I have to get back to doing my many readings for class. Before I go, I want to leave you with the a call to action. I want you to talk with your friends or your family about mental health. It doesn’t have to be specific and it doesn’t have to be personal, but just acknowledge what mental health is, what it means to you, and start a discussion. Do that and let me know how it goes because I would love to hear all about it. Thanks for reading this post, and as always, Take Care :D