Saturday, October 27, 2018

What Do I Get out of Blogging about Mental Health?

I was recently contacted by a college student who requested an email interview. I share the answers below because the interviewer asked excellent questions.

If you follow my blog, then you’ll already know that I have been diagnosed with Clinical Depression (Major Depressive Disorder), Adult ADHD, and Chronic Tic Disorder (Tourette’s). What you may not know is what I get out of blogging about my experiences with these conditions. This was the one of the questions the interviewer asked that made me think.

Why on earth do I do this?

My family resents my writing or is horrified by it. My friends don’t read it. It’s not making me a chick magnet. It doesn’t do anything for my abs. And it certainly doesn’t make me rich and famous (though you can change all that if you buy my book. It’s only $5. Heck, buy two!). Also, since it’s an online pursuit, blogging doesn’t, generally speaking, make new friends in the real world. What drives me to do this solitary and bloodletting pursuit‽

Certainly, I haven’t blogged as often lately. My disabled daughter’s needs coupled with my own have made blogging a bedraggled event. That doesn’t mean I’ve lost interest in blogging. Originally, I blogged to connect with other people like myself. After I got over the shock that I am an odd duck even in the mental health community, I focused on higher goals like writing tighter articles and improving my craft. However, now I blog to help people along the path that I have successfully traveled.

Have I been cured? No! But I’m happy, fulfilled, and equipped with a tool belt filled with dozens of coping strategies. This is what I like to share so that others can learn to manage their mental health as well. You don’t have to be cured to live better.

I started blogging in 1995, but it was more journal-like and lacked focus: this page is updated…that page is updated…people are mean… Riveting stuff like that. A Splintered Mind began in 2005 due to somebody telling me that ADHD was an excuse to get kids out of doing homework. I couldn’t defend myself at the time because I was gobsmacked. That bothered me deeply. Why was I ashamed to speak up? Why couldn’t I tell that person that ADHD was very real for me? I determined to learn how to discuss my mental health without stigma by beginning this blog. And here we are almost fourteen years later.

The interviewer also wanted to know what I got out of reading other people’s blogs. Another excellent question. I don’t follow mental health bloggers as intensely as I used to years ago, mostly because I am so busy with family and my own writing projects, but what I gained by reading others’ works were insights into how to describe mental health conditions as well as obtain new perspectives. It helped expand my compassion for others and informed my writing with new experiences.

The last two questions were the most thought provoking of all. First was how do I think other people see mental illnesses? Generally, I find people are ashamed of mental illness. They revile it. They become uncomfortable talking about it, thinking only of their state of mind. They want to change the subject and sweep the issue under the rug. No matter what church leaders, doctors, or government PSAs may advise, people, in general, drive those who they should be helping away to the dark corners of the web. Because of stigma, they cut themselves off from being the loving support people struggling with mental health issues desperately need.

This sounds bleak, doesn’t it? Things are not as bad as they used to be, but individually, people still stigmatize mental health issues. We have a ways to go.

As for how I see my own mental illness, I don’t think of it as an illness. However, I used to hate myself because of it. ADHD-inspired buffoonery and gaffes left me with very low self-esteem. My depression fed into that. I struggled with suicidal ideation. Then I hit rock bottom and decided I couldn’t continue on this way.

No, wait! I didn’t mean it that way. I suppose it’s too late now for that email I fired off.

What I meant was that I needed to overcome my mental health issues if I wished to enjoy life. I had dropped as low as I could go, so I began to crawl back up. I taught myself to manage my anxieties; I learned to laugh at myself when I made silly ADHD mistakes, and I began to fight my depression—to change the negative way I looked at the world. I improved my life in the process.

Mental health is a journey I will be taking for the rest of my life. The road is not as rocky and difficult to travel now that I have learned coping strategies. This is because I have confidence and optimism for what lies ahead. My life has been one of hope for over two decades, and I know I can keep going. That’s due mostly to the years spent blogging about mental health.

Coping Strategy: You don’t have to blog to manage your mental health. Keep a journal, and learn to laugh at yourself. Self-deprecating humor is a wonderful gift. If that sounds too difficult to manage, start with one thing a day that you are thankful for. If that sounds too daffy, try thinking of one thing positive a day. This is what I did over two decades ago. It was incredibly difficult at first, but I persevered. Daily positivity practice made a colossal change in my outlook over time.