What My Instagram Didn't Show About My Struggles With Mental Illness

We live in a time when people tend to think they know almost everything about people. Through constant Snapchats, Instagram posts, tweets, etc., individuals are able to portray themselves however they please. I have fallen victim to this social media trap of portrayal. When posting a selfie, I make sure it’s the best of the best. It has to be the right angle, I ask my friends for approval, think of a suitable caption and then boom. Not that the photo is edited or fake, but I came to the realization that I only post “good” or what I deem as “good” photos of myself.

I am in my first year of university at Ryerson, studying professional communications. When I look at my Instagram, I see an abundance of fun times, posed up pictures, big smiles, bright colors and everything in between. I tried to look at my Instagram as if I didn’t know myself and I thought, “Wow, this girl looks so put together, fun and artsy.” However, I am so far from put together. My first year at university has been an absolute mess. Although I can be fun, upbeat and artsy, I spend a lot of my days struggling to get out of my bed. I felt like I was hiding this whole other part of me from my online presence. I needed to acknowledge my mental illness to free myself and to help free others from the stigma and shame associated with mental illness.

I posted this photo of myself on Instagram with the caption:

contributor selfie

“Amidst all the fun and amazing memories first year has brought me, there has been an equal amount of pain to go with it. I took this photo after staying up all night to finish an assignment. At this time in my life, I was barely eating, I was experiencing multiple panic attacks a day, and I was convinced I wasn’t capable of being in university because I couldn’t function like everyone else. I became so absorbed in my sadness, I felt so lifeless. I didn’t want to be here. On this day, I decided I was so down I couldn’t deal with it on my own and I’m grateful for that decision. And no, I’m not “cured.” I still deal with anxiety, panic attacks and depression, I still stay in bed all day some days, and I still can’t function like everyone else. However, I know I have support. I know I’m not alone. Whenever I need to call someone, I have a list of people who have my back and honestly, I’m so appreciative for all the love from my friends and family. I’m posting this for all the people who have been struggling, who still struggle but continue to try because that’s all you can ever do. Try and keep trying. It’s nothing to be ashamed of — at least I’m not ashamed. It’s just a part of who I am and I thought y’all should know I’m not as put together as I appear on Insta (I don’t think anyone is). It’s really important especially in a society that glorifies perfection, to understand that being a work in progress isn’t anything less. #spreadlove”

As soon as I posted the picture, my heart immediately started racing and I became jittery. I was so nervous and I felt so vulnerable because I wasn’t sure how people would react. After a minute, I caught my breath and realized a weight was lifted off my shoulder. Suddenly, I didn’t even care how people would react. I felt free. Several people commented and/or messaged me on the side telling me how much my post inspired them. A lot of people said they had no idea I was going through all of this and that I hid it so well.

So, no more hiding. My mental illness makes me who I am. Although it makes little tasks much more difficult and makes some days seem impossible to survive, my mental illness makes me strong. I will continue to try, I will continue to battle, for I am invincible. Please don’t feel obligated to post “perfect” pictures all the time. I encourage you to use your social media as your genuine self: use it to reflect, and use it to grow. (And of course use it to post those fire selfies!)

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via contributor. 

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Anxiety


To the Person With Anxiety Who Wants to Be a Robot

I know what you want. I want it, too. Every morning is an opportunity to achieve it. Every Sunday is a chance to test your dutifully crafted routine. Because this will be the week you nail it. This will be the week you get it right. This week, your New Year’s Eve prayers will be [...]
spiral doodles in blue pen in lined notebook

Why You Should Never Underestimate the Power of the Doodle

My hands are never still.  I can’t recall a time when I was ever truly still, without immediately aching for something to do with my hands.  At school, I persisted in handwriting my assignments long after laptops were acceptable accessories to have in the classroom, just so I didn’t feel like my restlessness was taking [...]
image of young woman resting head lovingly on black labrador dog

How My Dog Helps My Anxiety and Panic Attacks

I say all the time that I don’t know how I would have gotten through all of the really intense anxiety stuff without my partner and my sister. And I really don’t. But I also wouldn’t have gotten through it without my dog. There are a lot of things she helped me with that I didn’t even realize [...]
woman pressing fingers to temples isolated on gray wall background

When You're Not Allowed to Struggle With Your Own Mental Health

Recently, among co-workers, I made a comment that I was feeling quite anxious one morning. “You’re not allowed to have that,” one replied “That’s your job,” and she half-laughed. A few hours later, sitting in a meeting next to another co-worker, I was quietly using my fidget cube to calm my nerves. (Obviously, I was having [...]