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I am a 29 year old woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 and also suffer from general anxiety and panic attacks. I have only been recently diagnosed but have been ill since I was a teenager. I tend to have mixed-manic episodes, hence the name of my blog. I am a regular guest blogger for Black Dog Tribe. I am not a mental health professional. I am just writing from my own experiences with mental illness. If you wish to use any of my blog content please contact me at lababup@gmail.com. Visit me on twitter @lababup

Monday, 7 April 2014

Honesty or positivity?

I was looking through my blog posts today and thinking lots of negative things. Of course, there were the standard problems of mistaken spellings and bad grammar. What really bothered me though was the inaccurate way I may be coming across.

I try to be completely honest in my posts and open up about things I would never talk about in real life. I would never tell anyone who knew me IRL that I self-harm. I wouldn’t tell them about scary intrusive thoughts I have or any of my catatonic behaviours. These are all just too embarrassing for me and hard to admit to, even to myself.

I realised though that the way I was writing a few of my posts was not completely honest. I noticed that I was often ending my posts on some sort of concluding positive note. I guess I thought that people would be annoyed with a negative or abrupt ending. It’s like when you read a book and you feel really let down if there is not some kind of upbeat or fulfilling conclusion. Sometimes the whole time you spent reading the book seems like a waste of time if there is not a satisfying end.

I seem to have applied this to my blog writing. But real life is not like this. There is no settled ending to what I am experiencing with my mental illness. The story just keeps unfolding. Sometimes there is a positive outcome or message; maybe I have grown as a person or become more hardened to life. However, often there is no positive spin I can take on my experiences. Sometimes what happens is just a bit shit really, but I’m forced to keep going in the hope that things will get better. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. 

You are stuck between a rock and a hard place when trying to blog, tweet or talk about your mental health condition. Some people will always be going through a tough time and will talk about their battles every day. This could be seen as honest and refreshing but some would view this as negative and draining. Alternatively some people will try and be really uplifting in an attempt to bring everyone up with them. This is a noble intention but some people will view it as dishonest about the daily struggle of living with mental illness
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Personally, I admire all people who talk about mental illness, whatever their take on it. However, I still can’t help but feel like a fraud when I try and send positive messages to others with mental illness. When I see someone struggle I just want to hug them and say something encouraging. I could say something like ‘I am sure you will feel better soon’. However, I know that things sometimes don’t improve; sometimes a mental illness is chronic. 

So do I help people with positive messages and feel like a fraud? Or do I go down the honest route and drag people down with me? 

Personally, I think that I should be honest about how harrowing the experience of mental illness can be. You can’t help people with positive messages if those messages are empty. Just talking honestly about your MH experiences can be helpful to some people. If they recognise the similarity of your experiences to their own, they feel less isolated and alone.

Importantly, I think that there are ways you can be honest in a positive way when you are trying to help someone. I don’t think that just being honest about your experience drags people down. However, being honest about your difficult experiences without listening to others may not be that useful. To help people, you need to not only tell your story but allow them to tell theirs. 

When they feel down, listen to them. You can offer positive advice, as long as it is truly meaningful. Just saying ‘things will be better tomorrow’ or ‘there is always a silver lining’ are not very helpful because you can’t possibly know these things. 

So what should you say? You can say that you hope they will feel better soon and that you are thinking of them. If appropriate, you can remind them of times they have not felt like this and point out that they may feel like this once again. Perhaps you can point out that some people have managed recovery or remission and so there may be hope for the future. Most importantly, you can just show that you and are there for them and they are not alone.

I think that honesty about mental illness is crucial in getting more awareness out there and in helping people feel less alone. However, positivity also has its place. As long as those positive messages are truly meaningful.

8 comments:

  1. I know exactly what you mean. I also try to always end my blog positively, to encourage and uplift, but often I don't feel that positivism myself. Over the weekend I had a very bad lapse into self destructive behaviour, but I am too ashamed to she those gruesome details on my blog. It's difficult to get the right balance I think

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    1. Yeah, it is sometimes hard to express the worst of things on your blog. I always feel like I am not helping people if I do. I find balancing honesty and positivity really difficult. Part of me just wants to scream to the world that everything is terrible. But I know that I don't feel so strongly all the time so I try to be balanced.

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    2. Good for you writing about something frightening and harrowing (great word choice by the way) from your perspective. As a medical student who has struggled with more than merely moderate depression at times, I sympathize and appreciate your candour.

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    3. Thanks, that is really kind of you to say. I had hoped that people would appreciate a candid outlook on mental illness rather that coming away feeling more depressed than before.

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  2. It is good that people can be honest , if it's what you are feeling that's what you should say . Me included life everyday not saying anything and finding themselves in a bigger hole . Thankyou for being honest hopefully one day we all can be x

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    1. Thanks for reading! I wish I could be really honest with everyone, but it is much easier being honest anonymously online to with your friends and family. Hopefully I can extend this honesty on my blog to real life!

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    2. Do you find letting it out a relief ? It is a blog but it's your life it's happening to you . People read it and like me don't feel so alone . If you don't say the truth it's like your sugar coating it . I for one really appreciate you being honest . I'm not and nobody listens anyway and I'm getting so angry I'm full of hate x

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    3. Thanks :-) I do find letting it out really therapeutic. Having people respond and say that they feel the same way makes me feel less alone, although obviously I wouldn't wish mental illness on anyone.

      Sometimes it can be difficult to be honest if you think people aren't really listening or caring. I am sorry that you feel like that. That is what can be good about being online. You can connect to people who have the same problems and hopefully will listen,

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