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
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.