I Want to Post This About My Mental Illness on Facebook, but Don't
Today I went for a walk on the beach. The waves, white sand and blue sky were perfect, so I posted a few photos on social media. Almost instantly, I had three comments:
“So glad for you!”
“Beautiful! Lucky girl!”
Lucky? If only they knew.
If only they knew…
That I very reluctantly let my friend talk me into walking on the beach with her.
That I struggled every minute with knowing what to say, not wanting to let her know the darkness I was feeling. I wanted to appear “normal” so I didn’t bring her down.
That today’s walk was a rare outing for me, since my weekends are usually spent inside, sleeping sometimes 18 hours a day.
That I could only stand to be with people for an hour, and then I had to retreat to the dark, comfortable safety of my apartment. The relentless anxiety and my racing thoughts were too much to take, and I just wanted to sleep.
That three nights ago, I came the closest I ever have to ending my life. That it became impossible to find reasons to stay on this earth anymore. That I spent eight hours at the mental hospital before convincing them to let me leave so I could go to work the next day.
That I struggle daily to find reasons to get out of bed, to get dressed, to go to my job, to put on a smile and act as if everything is wonderful. That I usually can’t find those reasons, but I have to play the role anyway.
That what I really wanted to do is to post a desperate cry for help, hoping someone, anyone, would listen and care about my sadness.
That I feel lost and alone, as if I’m the only person on Facebook who struggles with depression and anxiety.
Reading someone’s social media posts is only half the story. It’s the part they choose to share with you. When the despair hits me, I sometimes want to be completely transparent, sharing with everyone how I really feel. But I always talk myself out of it. Pride, stigma, and fear of judgment change my mind before I post what I’m really experiencing. Social media is a place where you share the highlights of your life, not the lows. On one hand, I like social media because it allows me to keep up with the lives of friends and family. But sometimes it’s a dangerous place for me to be, since I see everyone’s lives as perfect and idyllic, while I see mine as full of failures, disappointments, and mistakes. I scroll through, looking at photo after photo and wondering, Am I the only one here who struggles with depression and anxiety?
I hope one day, mental illness will no longer have the stigma it does today — that someone who struggles will no longer have to make up excuses for why they can’t make it to work or to a social event. That they can be honest and admit they are recovering from an anxiety attack or fighting suicidal thoughts. That they can take a much-needed break from school or work to care for themselves, without fear of judgment or consequences. When we can begin to bring these struggles out into the open, then maybe we can start to deal with them, and to start the healing process.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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Photo by Reinhard Rosar, via Unsplash