The strange thing about the internet, and particularly blogging, is that it’s often easier to disclose your deepest, darkest feelings to a world wide web full of strangers than to the people you’ve known all your life. There is something about the anonymity of sitting behind a screen that’s really comforting and makes us feel safe. And even if you’re not anonymous, even if your photo and real name are right there in the corner for all to see, you can still bask in the knowledge that it’s unlikely anyone you know is going to stumble across your minute corner of the web without prompting.
And I’ve never prompted. I’ve been writing this blog for ten months but I’ve never put it on my real name, honest-to-God Facebook profile. Until two weeks ago.
I had a whole post drafted previously about how I didn’t feel I could ever share this place with everyone who knows me and how ashamed that made me because I’m forever writing about breaking down stigma and being honest about mental health issues and yet I couldn’t seem to overcome the self-stigma that held me back.
However, when I noticed that is was almost Time To Talk Day something shifted and I decided to practice what I preach and put it all out there. When you write about the horrific symptoms of postnatal depression – the intrusive thoughts and confessions of just how dark the world got for you – it’s nerve-wracking to put the words out there for friends, family and workmates to see. But then I thought – why is it? If I had had any other serious health issue I would want the people nearest to me to be aware, so why not this? The only difference is all the barriers specific to mental illness that I supposedly rally against as an advocate – embarrassment, shame, fear about being treated differently, worries about work etc. And having these feelings prevent me from sharing made me feel like a hypocrite.
Writing the words was easy enough, hovering above that post button was not. But, oddly, the moment after I clicked it I felt freer than I have since I began blogging. No more sneaking around in the dark. For better or worse, anyone looking at my Facebook that morning now knew that my early months of motherhood had not been easy, they knew that I had had confusing, painful and shamefully unpleasant feelings about my son and my own life that made me question who I was. And that was okay. What was the worst that could happen? I’d already survived the illness itself, I could survive telling people about it! It made me think about that expression – coming clean – because I certainly felt cleansed afterwards.
The very best part was the generous and loving responses I received, which I am so thankful for. Several people complimented my writing and shared the link with their own friends which made me feel so happy and proud of myself. Others sent me private messages of support (and often surprise!). And a couple even said it made them feel more comfortable about sharing their own experiences – which was absolutely the best part, as freeing people to speak up about mental health was one of my main aims when I began The Butterfly Mother, and the whole point of Time To Talk.
There is a huge amount of work going on in the media and the advocacy world at the moment to break down remaining stigma surrounding mental health, and I think we are very slowly winning. But what about self-stigma? I have thoughts about myself which I know are false – depression is a weakness, anxiety is attention-seeking, having PND makes me a bad parent etc. I know that none of these judgements are correct or fair and I would never think them about or express them towards another person, so why do we judge ourselves so harshly? How can we counter the stigma and shame we cast onto ourselves in our darker moments? This is something that still needs some work.
Regarding coming clean to everyone, I would never pressure anyone to do so. It’s such a personal choice and not everyone is ready, I wasn’t ready for a long time. And not everyone is lucky enough to have such a wonderful and supportive audience as I did. But if you are currently struggling with PND or anxiety please tell someone. You don’t need to tell the world – just your partner or your boss or – importantly – your doctor or health care provider. And if you do decide to tell more people, you may well be surprised by the love and support you are shown in return.
As a final note I feel I should say to anyone who does know me in ‘real life’ and who was concerned about me after reading my posts please know that a lot of those words are based on how I was feeling a long time ago now. Today, I feel happy and healthy and so, so grateful.
But if you want to worry a little about mental health issues that’s okay, because these are problems that we should all worry about. Please direct that concern to a charity or to someone who you think may be currently struggling, and reach out to them if you can. Make some time to talk about it.
41 comments on “Coming Clean”
Beautifully written and brave post. I have shared my blog on personal social media but I did feel much more uncomfortable – especially when spilling my heart out. It is like sharing a little bit of your soul. But you are doing such a wonderful thing by sharing such feelings. It’s the only way we will stop the stigma and it will make people feel less alone. Well done you. x
Well done to you too! It is a scary feeling that’s for sure x
Reblogged this on Mums & Mind.
I am anon on twitter and that has helped me finally to recount the factual story of my 2 pregnancies as a comment on another blog. I’ve never told the whole story before but it felt that the time is right now and it’s so much easier with social media. I cried as I typed it.
Thank you to everyone who tells it how it is – whatever type of mental illness especially though with PND. Years later I still hold a huge guilt that I couldn’t even touch my baby when I first saw her. I love her now though
I understand that guilt x Well done for putting your story out there ❤️
It is brave of you to reveal your identity. I know I was reluctant but ended up doing it early on while I was still sick. It was very hard. I’m finding it a good forum to try and explain what is going for me, for us. I hope that it helps you and others too. Xx
Thank you, lovely xxx
I totally understand how it is easier to write a blog post about your feelings than to share them with a real live person. I suffered terrible pnd following the birth of my last child and the wounds are still there although I am well now. I am so glad that more and more people are writing about their mental health journey and making it more accessible to those fortunate enough not to have first hand experience. #binkylinky
Thank you so much for your kind words and I’m glad you are doing better now. It certainly leaves scars but eventually makes you stronger too x
Wonderful. Two of our three kids are autistic and we get judgement at times for it. The eldest also struggles with anxiety, maybe not surprising 70% of people with autism experience some kind of mental health issue so I’m reading more and more about MH. Thanks so much for your post. #justanotherlinky
Thank you for reading and for your kind words x
I love when I read about others sharing their stories of mental illness. It is something that I am very honest about in my blog and in real life, telling the story of my battle with PND, anorexia, panic and anxiety disorder and an 18 year battle with all of these. I have had a couple of negative reactions about sharing so much on my blog and yet I have had a whole host of lovely, positive comments and messages from people telling me that it helps them to read such honest accounts. I think that’s the main thing isn’t it? Being honest and sharing something which may help others. Thanks for sharing. #binkylinky
Exactly. I know it helped me when I was ill so if it helps just a handful of people to read our stories then it’s worth it. Thank you x
Really interesting and honest post. I’m so glad you felt brave enough to share and even more glad that you received such kind responses. It must have been really liberating for you. I think you’re right, that by being honest and true, you’re helping others and to raise the profile of mental illness which is only a good thing.
On a separate note, I’ve found it really hard and struggled with promoting my blog on Facebook because I’m very aware that I could be annoying many people who are my friends! It’s important to get your blog out there, but I do worry about the self promotion side of it.
Great post x. #JustAnotherLinky
Hiya, thanks so much for reading and commenting. I totally know what you mean re self promotion and I’m not comfortable with that either. So instead I set up a Facebook page for my blog. I invited my friends to like it but obviously they aren’t obligated to. I use that to promote all my posts because I know that anyone following that page is interested but on my normal status I’ve only ever shared my blog once (the one time I’m discussing in this post) because I wouldn’t want to fill up my friends newsfeeds all the time x
Its not the same, but I went through a similar dilemma recently. We had been having problems with the teenager that I didn’t want public, but felt like a fraud continuing to write funny stories about the 4 year old. Eventually I started writing about the teen but didn’t promote the posts. As I got more comfortable with the idea, I began opening up more. I think its a slow process getting used to the idea of sharing so much of yourself
You certainly have to take your time with it and can be daunting. Glad you are feeling more able to share about your teenager now. Thanks for commenting 🙂
Well done, its so hard to finally tell all. So nice people back you and support you. Well done again and I’m loving your blog name 🙂 xx
Thank you 🙂 Wanted something that represented huge, almost traumatic transformation but where you emerged better than before. Thanks for reading x
I started out anon and then realised ‘what am I hiding from’ so ‘came out’ as it were! Very brave of you xx
Thank you, and you too! X
Very brave to reveal yourself thanks for linking to the Binkylinky
Such a brave and beautifully written post.
Thanks for linking up to #justanotherlinky
Thank you so much x
I have so much stuff locked away in my head to write about but know that if and when I do it will cause turmoil between me and some of my family. So for now this discourages me from writing it. Good for you for taking the step to your own recovery. I am visiting from #AnythingGoes.
I’m so sorry that your family make his difficult for you 🙁 Thank you for commenting and your kind words x
So brave of you and such an honest post. Thanks for linking up to #justanotherlinky xx
Thank you x
Beautifully written. So glad you feel freer after being open and that you received such a positive and warm response, you should be so proud!
I totally get this and to start with I never shared anything on my personal Facebook page. There are some posts, the more personal ones I have deliberately kept off there. Well done for speaking out and thanks for linking to #PickNMix x
Yeah I understand that, some things are just too personal. Thanks for reading x
You are braver that I am! I can’t use facebook for the blog as they don’t allow anonymous accounts and whilst its not super-secret who I am there’s a lot of stuff on my blog that is hugely triggering to family (and also is about some of them in cryptic non-specific terms).
You’ve encouraged me to at least think about it a little more. If I am really dedicated to the idea of tackling taboos and stigma than why not go public public?
Thank you for your honesty and sharing your experiences in such a thought provoking post.
Thanks for your comments 🙂 It’s such a hard thing and everyone’s situation is different. Thankfully I have very understanding and supportive family but it’s not always that simple. Thanks, again ❤️
Thank you for your posts. The sharing/ oversharing … ‘right time’ thing – so difficult to judge. And something I have struggled with (tending to ‘overshare’ and then feel I have got it wrong/ let myself down. On the one hand, a recognition that shame and secrecy does not help – myself… or others who are often going through something similar themselves and need to feel it’s okay to talk. On the other, a recognition that feeling safe is an important aspect of maintaining recovery. And that there is a responsibility not unnecessarily worry close family and friends or make them feel uncomfortable.
It was hard to me to come clean about my own depression. The wonderful thing is that your friends may still not get it or want to get it, but there will be people out there in this virtual world of the Internet who identify, and in turn support you.
I love this post!
I’ve never been brace enough to share my blog with my ‘Facebook’ friends because they are family and ‘real life’ friends whereas Twitter is full of people I mostly only connect with over twitter and I feel it is safer and I am less prone to judgement.
I’ve often thought about sharing my blog with my family and friends but it is too much of a scary thought st the minute. This post might just inspire me to be brace enough one day 🙂
How brave. An increasing number of people I know have been told about my WordPress blog and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have mainly positive responses. I’m still profoundly affected by my bipolar which became so severe I was hospitalised just weeks after my daughter’s birth. But hopefully I’m getting there and gives others the courage to keep on. Mental illness is neither simple or has a easy fix but with people putting their voices out there and identifying themselves it becomes personal. Thanks for your actions to do this.
You are SO brave. Seriously, I can’t even begin to say. Thank you for this post. I am generally a closed book in all aspects of life, but I am working hard on being more open about my struggles with anxiety and depression.
Thank you so much, Katy. Sharing helps me just as much as anyone else I think xxx