Facebook and Twitter: should I post only about my depression?

Twitter logoMe: "So, what you’re saying, really, is that I need to stop looking like I’m enjoying myself so much online when I’m off sick with mental health problems?"

As a healthcare professional I have to be mindful of how I conduct myself online. I have a duty to be professional and I take it very seriously. I put a lot of consideration into what I post on social media. My Facebook account is 'friends only' and I use lists to keep my most personal posts even more private.

But I decided that I could not censor myself when it came to my health. I needed to be as honest in the online world as I am in person. And also, that I wanted to post about my mental health just as I do about most things; with humour, irreverence and a hint of provocation.

I have been advised to, ‘be careful’, about online activity to stop wagging tongues.

Unfortunately, it would seem that this method does not meet muster with all who have come across my posts on social media. I have been advised to, ‘be careful’, about online activity to stop wagging tongues.

I have a naturally sunny disposition and I’ve found that this is the case for many with mental health problems – warped and black humour does prevail. I don’t wear my misery like a badge of honour for all to see: I smile, I laugh and I joke.

This isn’t because I’m not ill, it’s because I am trying to get better. Depression is a self-perpetuating cycle so the more miserable you are the more miserable you will become. I aspire to be more Tigger than Eyeore. I try not to burden the wider world with my worst moments of abject illness and seek the positive spin where I can. The usual response to self-declaration of my health problems is, “I had no idea… you always seem so happy!”

When I post a Facebook update saying, “had a lovely day with my gorgeous son”, I may be saying, “I just about got through the day like a normal person...

So when I tweet, “well done me, today I did the washing up *pats self on back*”, what might be more accurate, would be “well done me, today I did not kill myself”. When I post a Facebook update saying, “had a lovely day with my gorgeous son”, I’m may be saying, “I just about got through the day like a normal person. Don’t think my son spotted that I’m angry and anxious and fearful of the day he realises his Mum is a mess”.

So yes, this ‘honesty’ is still a mask but it’s as much a mask of protection for me as it is a buffer for the world. I don’t want to drag people down or make them worry about what on earth they can say to me because I seem so distant and desperately ill. I want them to be able to tell me the picture of my iced birthday cake sunny-side down made them spit tea, that my anecdotes always make them smile, or that they too cry when they watch, ‘Parenthood’, because the dysfunctional family is just so familiar.

when I have moments of fun and clarity I like to celebrate them and share them

I can’t make you feel what I feel when I’m ill and I wouldn’t want to. So when I have moments of fun and clarity I like to celebrate them and share them. I’m sad that this makes some people question my honesty and my sincerity but my ‘friends’ who feel like that can’t know or respect me. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop me caring what they think…

So the simple (ha!) solution is that I should be more maudlin and intersperse my brief forays with normality with more periods of introspective analysis and overt depression. Let art imitate life. But where is the fun in that? And wasn’t social media invented for socialising? Let me have my small moments of joy, please. Just because I’m smiling on the outside, doesn’t mean I’m not crying inside.

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Comments

Love this

This could have been written by me so easily. I suffer with chronic anxiety, yet the number of people who say to me "I love what you post on Facebook. You're really quiet funny" (maybe they mean disturbed, but anyway). I am sure it would surprise them if they knew the extent to which I can suffer. But like you say, I don't want to bring them down. I want to make them smile, because I have experience far too many occasions when I have not been able to, and so I understand how precious being able to laugh is. Thank you so much for posting.

Disclosure on social media

I think this is a very significant issue you've raised. It seems to me that most anti-stigma campaigns tackle the "problem" of mental health in a relatively shallow fashion. Just "raising awareness" isn't sufficient to combat stigma. Some people will still hold prejudicial views after hearing of other peoples accounts of mental health difficulties. Other strategies are needed to help improve their views and values - a multi-modal, ongoing, stratified approach is probably warranted. In terms of disclosure on media networks I guess it's what the disclosure is for? Is it to make others aware? Is it to inform them of progress made? Is it about seeking support? There are undoubtedly other functions too I haven't listed (I'll have to survey relevant research literature now!).

Very True

This is all so true, but the problem is anyone who has not suffered depression does not understand the thoughts and turmoil that can be going round your head whilst you are having an apparently normal conversation. I think if I was to write on FB everything I really felt people would choose not to be friends with me anymore. I think there will be many many people who write on FB things that are not totally true, but say things that make life seem rosier than it is. Those that don't agree with what you write are not worth bothering, unfortunately like you said not that easy to ignore. Thanks for sharing.

Couldn't have put it better myself

I don't need to put much more than this. I'm the same, I try to make note of the positives to help myself get better. Some people just don't understand that if you're depressed or anxious you are allowed to be 'sunny' some of the time, and this should be celebrated more than ever when you're trying to overcome the chronic feeling of low mood! Thanks for this post!!

Agreed.

I echo everything I've read on this page. Depressed people do not go around frowning, crying or weilding sharp objects dangerously close to their wrists- would that it were so easy to spot and diagnose us. Contrastingly, I find that the people who whinge, vent, and try to attract attention over the most trivial of status updates on FB are those who wouldn't know depression if it hit them with a sledgehammer. And- just to lay my soul even barer, I feel a little bitter that we're subject to such scepticism and, very often, disinterest simply because our illness is of the invisible variety. My Facebook wall is upbeat and humorous too because I would never in a million years post the truth- that I can rarely see a reason for getting out of bed in the morning or even existing. But the people who shout the loudest are, all too often, the only ones who are heard.

Love this

My friend had a similar thing. She was off work with depression, but people kept coming in to work saying "well, she seems fine on facebook" because she had posted about a few small triumphs in her up-and-down life.

Depression and Facebook

This is very interesting to me. After a breakdown where I was unable to work for many months I decided not to post on fb or twitter as I felt too vulnerable to judgement by colleagues and my boss. In the end I had to resign and ejected almost all work colleagues from my account in order to share with true friends my road to recovery.

I think posting on social

I think posting on social media is like other times in life when someone asks you how you are and the standard response is 'i'm good/had a good day, etc'. Most people say this because it's just not the done thing to burden others with your problems. I used to always try to put a positive spin on everything, but more recently, i've been so down that i just can't keep that chin up.

Couldn't have said it better myself!

I have recently been off work due to depression and practically went silent on Facebook during this time for fear of people seeing any posts that might hint slightly at me enjoying myself and thinking "well she can't really be sick if she's out having lunch with a friend?!" I had actually been told by my doctor and my occupational health department that it was important that I go out with friends, do things I enjoy and try and have some fun during my time off. My closest friends understand and support this of course, but I still felt the need to hide any happy times from anyone who may have got the wrong idea and think I was taking the biscuit! Not sure why we care so much about the opinions of the people who are so quick to judge without taking time to really understand but I think it's in the nature of many people with depression to worry too much about what others think... Thanks for sharing your blog.

DITTO!

This could have been written by me, exactly the same situation and advice from professionals. I to care too much about what others think, but i am learning to stick up for myself and speak out to raise awareness of depression and to erase the stigma of mental illness. Thanks for your post Vicki.

Depression Posts

I am known by all my friends as a 'happy' person. They also know that I suffer from bouts of depression. I am not ashamed of this and use my facebook posts to, in a way, educate people about mental health issues. Sharing my dark thoughts gives me an outlet and shows others that it's pretty 'normal' to have depression. I tend to use self depreciating, dark humor to do this. This usually results in people finding me amusing rather than depressing. I don't think I share too much, I share what makes me comfortable which it what every personality type does.

I agree

I agree with this. I'm off work due to bullying and depression and my boss told me that she was shocked that I'd been laughing with the residents, whilst (allegedly!) depressed! I said but if I'd been miserable you would have told me off for being like this infront of the residents! No matter what, with some bosses we will NEVER beat the stigma!! because of the depression, my boss no longer thinks I'm suitable to work with the residents and thinks I need monitoring- even though I'm 'JUST' depressed and have NEVER been (and NEVER WOULD BE) violent towards anyone!!

Being waggish is a front, a sign, and a way to cling on...

I have bipolar disorder, and find, perhaps counter-intuitively, that when I'm "high" I'm really not likely to be interested in being funny, or in anything "funny", because everything is FAR TOO IMPORTANT and/or FAR TOO ANNOYING to ever warrant being funny. But, when I'm depressed, everything is up for a laugh. Dark humour kicks in, and though suddenly it seems I'm all about the laughter, it's just a front that has nothing to do with the turmoil beneath - and people who don't know me wouldn't have a clue what was going on, especially online. It's not only a front, but "being funny," however warped, can give at least some tentative grasp on sanity, keeping the real darkness back. Sure people will misread it, but that's what people need to learn, and what the education should be all about: that just because you cracked a few jokes and shared a smiley face with them, they're in absolutely no position to judge how you actually feel, or what you're going through. Oh well. What a weird condition it is, when you're told to cheer up, but then people get suspicious if you're cheerful. *sigh* Thanks for posting.

I decided not to hide but to be in your face

'This is my facebook posting the response from friends was of support and love. I think it shocked everyone to learn this happy go lucky nursing home manager was so ill which they never realised...... TO ALL MY CYBER FRIENDS, FRIENDS I KNOW PERSONALLY, SCHOOL FRIENDS, THOSE I WOULD LOVE TO MEET, MY FAMILY AND MY COLIN..A week ago I tried to kill myself..Its a dam sight harder to die when its not your time than you can realise. I will not apologise for my actions...it seemed at the time the only way to escape fears, hurt, failure and pressures which I felt even if not reality or proven... I am blessed with having 2 families..my own and Colin's and the love from them to us both and the help we have had offered is overwhelming. The reason for this post is not to embarrass but to bring to light that depression can affect anyone and its affects affect everyone...I deliberately avoided posting on National Mental Health day...I hope that I and those that know me and love me have the strength to accept what will be will be, and i hope to die eventually by natural causes...or at least with over indulgence of natural even if illegal substances whilst having the time of my life.

this is perfect.

i look on the positive side of my disorders, i try not to let them get me down - obviously that doesnt work so well much of the time but on the days that it does it's so nice to celebrate the little things, isnt it? even when things are desperately bad i find myself looking for something that i can laugh about even though it probably wont appear funny to other people or maybe not even myself later on. i've had many people turn around and tell me that there's nothing wrong with me because i dont show them how much of a wreck i actually am on the inside. if people could see inside my head then maybe they'd understand why it's so important to try to be as happy as possible, why it's sometimes better to laugh about small things and little vicotories. i wish so much that people could understand, but unfortunately unless people have suffered with a mental illness themselves then most of them dont have a clue how it actually works - maybe that's a small part of why most of my friends have mental illnesses of their own, because thye understand and can relate. thank you for posting this, really means alot to see someone pointing out that we dont have to appear to be a mess for our mental illness to be valid.

Well put

When I was off work with postnatal depression and post traumatic stress disorder recently I still posted on facebook. I found the Time to Change page and found many things that echo with me. I suffered quite badly with paranoia and would agonise over what what to post and what people would think. Part of my recovery process was going out and meeting friends instead of staying at home agonised with self hatred and so anxious I could hardly function. I used to worry if I put down I had a good day I would be judged. I felt worthless and that I wasn't entitled to any feelings of happiness. However I use Facebook to keep in contact with close friends and family and the support I received via Facebook was amazing. On my bad days when I couldn't face the world and leave the house I could access my friends via Facebook. We need to help change the stigma around Mental Health. You have good and bad days like anyone else. The only people I told how I was really feeling were family and friends who have suffered with depression. I told them face to face. You don't post your inner thoughts on Facebook. We need less judgement and more education and understanding

So true

I suffered with agroaphobia as well when I was diagnosed with depession, as many people do. For three months I barely left the house and apart form very close family who visited, the only time I interacted with anyone was on facebook. Social media is good to connect people who feel the same way, it makes you feel less alone in your battle. Thank you for sharing. x

Social media websites are a pain

The trouble with social media is that there's an unspoken belief that the way a person conducts themselves online is similar to how they are in real life. This may be true for some people, but particularly with those of us that struggle with mental health issues, it's unfair to make a sweeping assumption. tend not to post anything about my personal life on Facebook or Twitter these days. Sure, I will retweet or link to various mental health posts (like this one, and I shall!) because I agree with statements or can relate to things and want to share that, and I don't hide the fact that I am autistic and go through bouts of depression every so often, but I hate this unspoken pressure of having to update people about your life that Facebook and Twitter thrust upon you. However, I've found if you go quiet for a period on social media, people either get "worried" and keep asking if you're OK (not great if you just want to be left alone to deal with it), or stop caring because they think you don't care enough to keep them updated. You can't win!

So i'm not alone

I couldn't agree more .I too am a health professional within Mental Health . When i divulged my depression to my colleagues they too were amazed as I am usually the one that is laughing staying upbeat,sorting out problems and remaining positive in a daunting job. I have similar comments passed by my managers " you don't appear depressed " If they only knew how much mental and physical energy i use each day to be perceived as normal by others. A good day is not having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of running/jumping /ending it; but if i put that on my status I'm sure it would be deemed inappropriate and i would be deemed not fit to practice as a nurse. So go ahead celebrate a good day however big or small your achievements were because there are always be people who judge /are ignorant or don't understand and to be honest it's there lives that will be poorer by not opening their minds

Omg this is me

This is so familiar I can relate find it hard to live I just exist

Really important blog post topic

Thanks for posting this - definitely an issue that most of us can relate to. When my depression was at its worst I literally shut everyone out and didn't use things like Facebook for weeks on end (unusual for me). However I was worried about maintaining my personal blog, as gaps in it can make me look like I just can't be bothered. Eventually I posted to say that I had been ill, but couldn't bring myself to explain in more detail, partly because it's private but also because I use my blog as something that helps my career and I don't want to be judged negatively by potential employers who might stumble across that post (and it's my choice whether to tell them or not about the depression). What I did find when I went back onto Facebook etc. was that I was surprised how many people hadn't noticed my absence - it's the friends who matter that will realise you're not there. But I do agree that it can be awkward knowing whether or not to post during a depressive episode, as I do feel like I'm being judged (if I seem too happy then I can't be ill). I think this is something that we need to challenge and that friends and colleagues need to be better informed about - it's not okay to scrutinize someone's social media habits, and if they do seem too happy then perhaps they're just trying to focus on the positives and try to build up their self-esteem.

Amen

i stopped posting about my depression and panic attacks for the same reason that i stopped leaving my house... the fear of what other people would think... why do we care so much what others think about us? why? but i was afraid of being thought of as a 'downer'... so now i mostly just share uplifting photos and sayings...

This is so relatable. in fact

This is so relatable. in fact I actually ended up losing my job for posting on Facebook when i was signed off by my doctor with depression and anxiety. A friend from work reported my activity on facebook and it was investigated i was given a disiplinary then fired. I was so angered by it all, especailly that someone would report it and also that my boss was well aware of my condition, but he still put me through all the stress and eventually fired me.causing me more issues with my health. I agree in some cases you must be careful what you are doing and saying online, people who haven't suffered with mental health issues don't understand and i have my good days when i will post positive notes and recieve lots of comments and likes and then bad days when if i said what i really felt most people would not say a word and think i was crazy.

Thank you

It's sad that anyone cares about wagging tongues. While arcane punishment is generally a bad thing, I am increasingly of the opinion that wagging tongues should be cut off. I spent many years with my mother in denial about my depression, refusing to let me talk to doctors about it, implying I was making it up. Meanwhile, she laid in bed most days, never wanting to do anything, except when she was unaccountably upset over the most inane things. It's hard to get someone to stop denying your depression when they wallow in their own. I had to "deal with it" quietly, never mentioning it to anyone until I was old enough to be on my own to the doctor. He didn't believe me, having been my doctor for years with both myself and my mother faking normalcy. He finally agreed to put me on a low-level antidepressant. And everything got a little better. A simple pill taken for 30 days made 6 months of my life normal, and it was denied to me for 19 years because someone else was afraid of the word "depression". I still have depression, and thanks to mom, I'm still afraid to talk to doctors about it, because of what I now realize was her fear of wagging tongues. She was afraid I would never be employable if people thought I had depression. I live in the US, so I don't know how it works there beyond blog posts, but there are valid fears that people won't employ you if they know you have issues. They just won't tell you. Thank you for using your position to say what many of us can't.

Wonderful

My own experience backs this up and I too work in the healthcare profession! I am at times flabberghasted at some comments made by colleagues to posts/photos. I have felt stigmatised but have got the strength now to fight against them as nobody with our illness should be scared of telling anyone else that they are unwell and either ask for help or try to inspire others.

In cyberspace no one needs hear you scream...

I read this and felt as though I absolutely knew the person who wrote it. It is SO close to my own experiences that I shared it, where in most instances I would write something myself. I suppose this wasn't so much because I couldn't say these things myself. I shared it because in hearing these words from someone else I felt such huge relief to know that I am not alone. It validates my own sometimes sorry attempts to remain chipper in public - something I find much easier online than I do face to face. In cyberspace no one needs hear you scream...

A lot of comedians have

A lot of comedians have suffered with mental illnesses including depression. No one told them not to laugh or make people laugh. Some would argue that their humour was partly created because they were ill. When you're not well, any enjoyment you can find is surely a good thing. I guess when people haven't been through it themselves it might be hard for them to understand that. When I had depression it was diagnosed as "mild depression" although I felt like killing myself at times I luckily hadn't got to the stage where I felt like there was no other option. I was still working throughout my illness & apart from a few close friends & my family I don't think anyone else was aware of how ill I was. If someone asked me how I was I would say "fine" or "good" no matter how I felt inside because I didn't want to make them feel uncomfortable or have to explain for the millionth time all my problems & feelings to someone new. I admire people who can bare their souls & talk freely about their illnesses, about their good and bad days. Sometimes it's important to get a bad day off your chest & get a bit of sympathy. Sometimes it's good to realise you have had a good day. Writing it down on Facebook, in your diary or on a blog can be a good way to remember that and possibly help in recovering someone's mental health.

I agree, thanks for the blog

I agree wholeheartedly; it's exactly what I do. It helps me to draw positives from the day too. People who have felt those feelings understand the reality behind the seemingly simple status. I would understand exactly what you meant if you posted "Just done the washing up". Crap day then? I use TheElephant intheRoom on facebook as a place where you can be properly understood. If you posted there that you'd done the washing up you'd get the reply:"sorry you're having a tough day and well done you!xx"

Hear hear!

This is brilliantly written. I couldn't have put it better myself. I am frequently described as 'hilarious' and it's been commented that I have a huge and brilliant smile in every one of my photos. I save the real angst and misery for the blog, and post hilarity on Facebook. What you say about your son is absolutely true. A day where I can have the children all day is a rarity when I feel poorly and I am (rightly) proud of myself on those days, even if we just went to the park, or played The Bag Game. Xx

Thank You

When I read this, I cried. It felt like my words. Sometimes I do become a little maudlin on my own posts, but these are usually on the very worst days when I can't find the strength to be upbeat about anything. Humour gets you through and laughter really is the best medicine. Making a joke about something doesn't mean that what you're going through isn't any less real, it just means you are trying your hardest not to let this get the better of you. I have lost many friends and that will always hurt, but as you so rightly said 'those friends can't really know or respect you'. but it does still hurt. Thank you for posting this. It helps me feel that I'm not insane. Depression may just be The New Normal!

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