September 3, 2012

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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