How Sharing My Mental Health Story Helped Me Shed the Burden of Shame
A year ago I was a mess. I was struggling a lot with my mental health and heading towards a breakdown and a stay in the mental health unit.
I was so ashamed. Ashamed of falling apart. Ashamed of not appreciating the good things in my life. Ashamed of my weight, my eating disorder, my self-harm, panic attacks, depression, relationship issues. So much shame. And the last thing on earth I wanted to do was tell anybody what was going on.
I hid my scarred arms, my bingeing, purging and restricting. I hid my sadness and fear. And my disintegrating marriage. I tried really hard to look normal. Until I couldn’t do it any more.
It has taken me a year, but I am becoming more and more comfortable sharing my story — both online and in person.
About six months ago, I started journaling, and then blogging, as part of my recovery process. It has been incredibly cathartic and I believe contributed enormously to the progress I have made so far. Sharing my experience with mental illness makes me feel connected to a community of people who understand. It helps me feel connected with friends and professionals who deeply care and want to help me take the steps to recovery, people who remind me why I am here. It helps me feel connected with online communities who support and understand me, people who have been through what I’ve been through and made it out the other side. These communities give me hope and hope helps shed the burden of shame.
I also gain a sense of purpose by sharing my story. If a tiny snippet helps someone else, I feel good. And when you feel bad all the time, that moment of goodness is like a shining beacon light in a world of darkness. It brings a sense of purpose to add to the sense of hope.
Without hope and purpose it is very hard to find a reason to live. Life needs meaning, and hope and purpose are critical to that meaning. Once it all goes, it’s a very dark place. Those baby steps moving forward, supported by friends and strangers who know my story and care enough to offer encouragement, gradually turn into the road to recovery.
I am far from fully recovered. But I am a long way from where I was in my blackest moments. Without sharing my deepest, darkest secrets, I would have felt incredibly alone. I am no longer alone. And if one thing I share lights a tiny candle of light in someone else’s darkness, then I can achieve hope and purpose, and life starts to feel full.
If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
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Lead Thinkstock photo via Pimonova.