It might seem like a risky thing to share such personal information online. But how else are we going to end the stigma around mental health if people don't share their stories? So here's me justifying my dirty laundry...
Should I write about my mental illness online?
To write about uncomfortable stuff, or not to write about it, that is the question...
Whenever I publish a post on this blog I find myself plagued with the question of whether or not I should be writing about my mental illness.
Part of me wants to talk about it, I did start this blog to give myself a voice, after all. But there's always that nagging other voice that creates doubt, and I wonder what other people must think of me.
It's not that I'm worried about what people will think of me as a sufferer of mental illness, but more about what they will think of me writing about it.
Will they think I am a drama queen? Will they think I am self-indulgent? Will they ask Why is she always writing about herself?
After some thought, I've decided to address this self-doubt, by reminding myself of why I write about my mental illness online, alongside some humour and words of wisdom.
If you're thinking of starting your own blog or YouTube channel to talk about your mental health problems, then you might find this blog post inspiring... or funny... either is fine.
5 reasons I blog about my mental illness
1. I enjoy it – it's like self-therapy!
Writing has always been an outlet for me to express myself.
I don't have many (or any) close friends, and my family relations have always been troublesome. Writing about myself, my feelings, and my experiences have helped me to process these things in a healthier way.
I'm pouring my woes into a creative activity that I'm passionate about, and it's helping me come to terms with my diagnosis. What is the harm in that?
Many people might have put some humanitarian reason for their first point in a list like this, and while those may show up further down in my list, the main reason I write... not gonna lie... is for me.
It's my little guilty pleasure.
2. One day I hope to become rich and famous
Yep, another unconventional reason to write about mental health or mental illness - I know! But it's true ...
Maybe not in the way that you think though!
There are a number of things about me, directly related to my disorder, which cause much frustration in my professional life ...
I'm highly creative but hopeless at business. This means that my creative output is high, but the financial return is low. Too low. Sometimes non-existent in fact.
The problem here is that I can't feed my cat, my dog, and myself each month on air. Sometimes I just have to choose one of us to feed while the other two starve for 30 days. I'm just kidding. Kind of.
Becoming rich and famous might help pay for necessities...
... like pet food – and also non-essentials, like pet treats and toys, and maybe... more pets.
Don't judge me, I need the extra love.
The symptoms of my condition mean that I'm in a constant inner and outer battle with my professional and personal identity. This has had a horrible impact on my life, creating a never-ending cycle of self-perceived failure.
Hypomania fuels creativity, but inflates my ego and carries me off on random tangents away from my main goals and commitments. Anxiety makes me question everything, all of the time. And depression wipes me out for intermittent periods where I cease to function as a human being, let alone a creative professional.
I like to fantasise that becoming rich and famous might ease the pressure...
Don't tell me money doesn't buy happiness, I won't believe you until I've tried it.
Self-validation. For someone who rides the rollercoaster of mental illness and mood swings, being rich and famous might help to provide a mirror for those times I find myself in doubt of who I am, what I'm doing, and why I'm doing it.
For many creatives, our work feels like fraudulent, until other people rave about how great we are ...
You draw and write stories for a living? Surely those are just hobbies? Nope, they are in fact real jobs!
But try telling my inner voice of doubt that when I am sitting in bed with my pyjamas on and a hundred tabs open on my laptop because I'm a workaholic that likes to be cosy while she works.
Of course, I am a total introvert, and so becoming rich and famous probably wouldn't work at all for me (it's nice to dream though).
I do hope that one day I might write a book, or create a course, or land an awesome column on a high-profile publication, or something like that, and carve out a comfortable and successful professional life for myself. Now that would be nice.
3. I want to share all of my amazing discoveries about mental illness
It may sound weird, but a lot of this stuff is new and intriguing to me too.
Despite having lived with cyclothymic disorder my whole adult life, I'm only now starting to learn, understand, and recognise things about myself, and be able to account for all of my personal fails.
It's like I'm finally "meeting myself" and "introducing myself" to the world for the first time.
For me, my diagnosis has been groundbreaking, and I am constantly surprised and morbidly fascinated when I observe my own mental illness in action. I love looking back through journals to witness the peaks and troughs.
I'm a curious soul by nature and have always been one to head off down a rabbit hole in search of answers and new discoveries. Discovering that I've inherited bipolar from my family gene pool has given me the opportunity to seek out and soak up a whole new world of information about something I knew nothing about before.
It goes without saying that I want to share all of my newfound knowledge with someone... anyone... A blog seemed like the perfect place to regurgitate.
4. I want to forgive myself for not being perfect
I know that nobody is perfect, with or without mental health struggles.
I'm a Virgo, however, and Virgos always strive for perfection, regardless of whether or not it's achievable.
All my life I have chided myself for not achieving everything I knew deep down that I was capable of. I simply couldn't understand why I was always failing, always struggling with the simple things, and always feeling so lost and confused and misunderstood.
Writing this blog has provided me with a way to explore my past self, and be a little kinder to myself now.
5. And finally – I genuinely want to help others to understand their own mental health struggles
I've chosen to place this reason at the bottom of my list, not because it's the least important reason for me wanting to write a blog about my mental illness, but because you can only help others if you help yourself first.
My blog is my space. First and foremost, it is for me. By sharing my stories I hope to connect with others and offer what I needed when I first received my own diagnosis – which was just to know that I'm not the only one going through this.
One of the first people who reached out to tell me they had read my blog told me that it was like they were reading about themselves. That is exactly what I want to achieve here.
If you can see yourself in my stories, then you know you're not alone in this struggle. Many before you have gone through the same things, and many after you will too.
This blog may sound like it's about me, but really it is about us all.
Thank you for reading this. If you enjoy it please help me to raise awareness about what it's like to live with a mental illness by sharing the post.