This article is part of the my Mental Wellness Journey Series. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to talk honestly about my experience with Anxiety, as well as share advice that has helped me along the way through my recovery.
As someone who avoided going to counseling for years because I was afraid of telling someone everything that was going on in my head, I understand how difficult it is to open up about your experiences. It can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable, self-conscience and worried.
I had those feelings not too long ago when I published “My Mental Wellness Journey: What Inspired me to Change my Life.” The start of my series was going to be a detailed break-down of the most notable moments of my emotional decline, the complete annotated bibliography of my struggle with Anxiety.
Hitting publish was hard enough, asking people to read my post about my Anxiety was terrifying. On top of that, I was including my blog in my cover letters to potential employers knowing full well that the first post they see would be the all too honest explanation of my rock-bottom.
I’ll confess, I set the post to private one week after I posted it. I kept flip-flopping between sharing my story or scraping the series all together.
I kept asking myself…
Is this too honest?
Are people going to judge?
Am I being self-centered?
Is anyone even going to read it?
Eventually I came to the decision that I needed to share my story because my Anxiety was telling me not to. Hiding away because of fear is exactly what I’ve done for years. It’s time for me to take ownership of who I am. Sharing my story, piece by piece, and being nothing but authentically myself is exactly what I need to do in my recovery journey.
Knowing it was the right thing to do didn’t make posting it much easier, though. I was still hit with the fear that I was being too honest; that the details I was sharing on this platform were reserved for a therapist’s office.
But the thing about telling your story online is that there is a good chance that someone might be experiencing something similar. And that person may need a reminder that they’re not the only one.
I started Lavender Life in the first place because I wanted authenticity and relatable content online. This blog has always been about not shying away from fear and struggle. Who would I be to hide my struggle and only talk about my success?
Just like going to a counselor for the first time, it’s intimidating to dig up your past anguish and share your thoughts and fears with a stranger (or tons of online strangers). But there is courage in vulnerability. You become stronger the more you push yourself out of your comfort zone.
There are thousands of people every year who lose to their mental illnesses because they don’t have the courage to be honest about what their experiencing and seek help.
If you’re afraid to share your experience (whether it’s with a therapist, a friend, or an online community), here are a few tips to get started:
The easiest, cheapest therapy tool on the market. If you’re having trouble vocalizing your fears and feelings, write them out. Don’t worry, you don’t have to share your journal entries word for word, this is just a tool to organize your thoughts.
Read About Others’ Experiences
Take a trip down the “memoirs” section of your local bookstore and you’ll find dozens of real people sharing their stories. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis is an excellent example of someone getting real about their inner-critic and the failures they’ve experienced in their lives.
Start a conversation with someone you trust
It can be difficult to broach the topic of mental health with friends and family members. Many people are averse to talking about their feelings. But it’s important to voice your story in a space you feel comfortable with people who want the best for you. If you’re unsure on how to start that sort of conversation, here are a few prompts you can try:
- “Do you know of any friends or family members who’ve experienced Depression/Anxiety/Bipolar Disorder/ect.? What was your impression of their experience with it?”
- “I read that rates of Depression and Anxiety have increased astronomically for college students in recent years. Why do you think that is? What do you think should be done about that? “
- “Things have been difficult for me recently, have you ever felt like you can’t keep your head above water or have trouble getting out of bed in the morning?”
Find your community
Due to the power of social media, nowadays you can find groups of people who are looking for an opportunity to share their story like you. There are communities centered around certain topics and support groups open for you to connect to. Here are a few ways to search for the group that’s right for you:
- Browse the “Health and Wellness” section on Meetup to find groups in your area.
- Look up term like “#MentalHealthBlogger” and “#RecoveryIsPossible” on Instagram to find hundreds of inspiring individuals to connect with.
- Visit reliable online discussion boards and forums on mental health topics. Bonus: many of these sites allow you to be completely anonymous.Mental Health Forum and National Alliance on Mental Illness are great sites to try.
I hope you have the courage to own your story and to tell it as it is.
Have you found it difficult to see a therapist or talk about your mental health with someone? What helped you open up? Feel free to comment below.