Why I Won’t Erase My Old Mental Health Articles (Despite My Instinct to Hide Them)
It’s been a while since I wrote anything for The Mighty. It’s been a while since I wrote anything at all, to be honest. I’ve come a long way. Some of these things I’ve written – they don’t resonate with me anymore. I’m older. I’m further into my recovery. I’ve got new, different but equally challenging things that are going on in my life. I feel so far away from the scared girl who just moved across the country and started a new life, who admitted for the first time that her eating was not “normal” and her anxiety was overwhelming. I remember – boy, do I remember – but I don’t feel it the same way anymore.
When I read these articles, I am surprised — shocked, even — at how much of myself I have shared with the world. My instinct is to hide them. Take them down. Use a pseudonym. Scrub any trace of the social media posts I wrote when I was brave and unashamed and ready to own these pieces of who I am. Or maybe, scrub any trace of what I wrote when I was young and angry and confused and trying to do it all on my own. Part of me doesn’t even want to write this article because I know the natural curiosity for a reader will be to go back and figure out what I’m even referencing, and that scares me.
I’ve been working through this a lot lately — the shame and embarrassment I feel about sharing my mental health struggles. In theory, I’m not. I’m not ashamed of who I am and where I’ve been. I’m not embarrassed about panic attacks I can’t control and an eating disorder that has changed my neural pathways and wreaked havoc on my life. If anything, in theory, I’m proud. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made and the resilience I’ve shown and the recovery that I put so much energy into every day. In theory, I own every part of me and every step that has led to today.
In reality, I feel a completely different set of emotions. Shame. Embarrassment. Defensiveness. Reluctance to share my most vulnerable pieces. Fear to give someone so much influence over something I myself am barely hanging onto. I don’t want to be hurt. Judged. Ostracized. Criticized. Devalued. It is easier, so much easier, to hold these things tightly inside of myself where no one can possibly reach unless I let them. It is easier to eliminate my risk altogether than it is to think about the possibility of getting hurt, let alone actually experience it.
Here’s the thing, though: I wrote those articles because I needed to say them. I needed to practice talking and expressing and letting people see the parts of me I keep so, so hidden, even if those people were on the other side of a computer screen. I wanted to share my experiences in the hopes that it might reach someone else and inspire them to do the same. The articles I shared were me committing to all those things I feel in theory, and taking steps so I can someday feel them in reality. And now, today, I am choosing to keep those articles up for the same reason. I have nothing to be ashamed of. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I have everything to be proud of, and to be grateful for. I won’t always say the right thing. I won’t always feel comfortable letting people know these pieces of me. That’s part of growing, and I’m learning to embrace that. With these articles, I have a choice to either step back into the isolated darkness I am so comfortable in, or to step towards the unfamiliar openness I imagine.
I choose the light.
Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash