I wrote this post below as a Facebook post online today and decided to share it in my blog due to several factors of relevance.
It brings forth several important elements around the conversation on mental health, stigma, and personal expression. This includes the open expression of one’s personal struggles with mental health, discomfort from the other end, dialogue among minority communities and perceptions and actions that could potentially discourage one’s expression and hence be counterproductive towards healing, and more.
Please read and feel free to provide your perspective. Everyone’s experience on this is uniquely relevant, important and necessary to explore and discuss. Which makes it imperative to keep an open mind in the conversations surrounding mental illness. I will explore these issues further in other posts, but for now, I am sharing what I had written today on my Facebook profile.
This is the post:
“Hi everyone, something has come to my attention and because I have lost some sleep over this, I wanted to be honest and real with you, as I always will be. If you find me in your news feed sometimes, you may see some posts from me that may seem to some eyes, displeasing or perhaps uncomfortable. I have made it no secret that I struggle with anxiety and depression and have for a long time. I am an open book, and with much sincerity, this has something that has developed over time for an important purpose. If you are genuinely concerned for my health, please contact me, my age is visible on this profile. I am 32 years old, which suggests I am an adult. I understand that in the South Asian and Muslim culture, an unmarried woman is still perceived as a child in some respects, despite her age. It can be quite frustrating but that experience, hidden beneath actions and words, is quite real in many respects. But I want to reassure in terms of my taking care of myself, that I am an adult and have been taking care of myself for many many many years on my own, as an independent woman.
With that said, and with much love and respect, please do not feel you have to contact my parents if you find me posting about my state of health on Facebook, although the concern is appreciated and can be commended in some ways… Too often the result is more of a bystander effect in these types of things, and that is an unfortunate reality partly due to a stigma-ridden society. The COO of Facebook was on Ellen today, talking about her new book. She mentioned something in terms of her tragedy of losing her husband: that people not saying anything at all to her, was much worse than making the effort to say something, anything, but I would add that the effort needs to be made to say the “right” things and there shouldn’t be an incentive to do so, simply the idea of looking out for one another, should be ingrained in our daily lives. I am giving my example, because doing something like contacting my parents can actually be counterproductive and whether it is intentional or not, it can potentially create a further sense of shame and fear in the one who is struggling, from simply being able to share one’s thoughts and use certain platforms to express one’s struggle. My parents are my Facebook friends, I don’t hide anything from them, they monitor me regularly and I speak with them every day so they know I am okay, alive, and fighting. I want to be clear that I will not be afraid to speak my truth. Because I firmly believe that anyone with any type of disability can make meaningful contributions to society…and EQUAL to the capacity of anyone who does not have that disability, perhaps in some cases in a different way, but still EQUAL….My parents know me and my situation, and they know I am working on this and fortunately or unfortunately, depending on perspective, that I am not someone who will struggle in silence, but for an important reason.
That reason is this: as i have learned from personal experience as well as from reading other’s stories and educating myself about the field of mental health, there is truthfully, sincerely, MUCH MORE DANGER in not sharing and suffering in silence than simply writing a post about it on Facebook from time to time. Let us take a moment to think why people resort to social networks to express themselves during difficult times. It could be that they have no other avenue or cannot reach those within their networks at certain hours. Especially in late hours where anxieties and depressive states or manias are more commonplace, occasional expressions on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, may end up being critical for an outlet or release. I have tamed myself in that regard over the years. Believe it or not, I am trying to beat this. Writing or some form of expression is what helps many people for a reason. Once it is out of your system, your brain is able to see it from the outside, study it, and dissect it, instead of internalizing it further into the subconscious. It starts from writing in journals, but with the internet, there is a visibility factor that proves to be a type of release that is difficult to fully explain in writing, but more importantly, it is an opportunity for outreach.
Now, ideally, and it is unfortunate that this is just an “ideal”, if something in a post is extremely troublesome, it is important you contact that individual immediately. If there is a clear indication of a threat to one’s life, you need to contact the appropriate authorities immediately. Rest assured, that will not be necessary for me. But as more and more people become more open about their situation, these types of actions, need to be monitored and normalized.
I am proud of how much my parents have evolved with me on this issue, especially when this isn’t really something that is openly discussed in the South Asian/Muslim communities, unfortunately. I believe they are very special because of that along with many other reasons…and I believe they are proof to me that we can change this conversation, this narrative. I post on facebook from time to time, because it is my truth and I can only live my truth. I cannot apologize if that makes anyone uncomfortable or embarrassed or ashamed of me, or disappointed in me. I may appear weak at times if I state such things like “I’m feeling depressed”, but actually, I’m still here and still pushing myself to be able to accomplish things that is even beyond difficult for those doing the same exact thing without having the weight of a mental illness on them…. so wouldn’t this suggest my endurance is actually quite strong? Praise be to God, I believe so. I am quite self-aware and enlightened about my situation, and this struggle has made me a better person and will actually be the fundamental core method of building my character to do what I actually plan to do in my life, taking the illness aside. I will keep fighting it, but I will have my moments of vulnerability and relapse.
Just like when someone breaks a leg and decides to post about it, or if someone goes for surgery or has a serious cold and posts about it, (and I see some pretty serious posts like these all the time) ….anxiety and depression falls in the same type of category, somewhat, though being a serious chronic health condition. Instead of a broken leg, there is something in the mind that may be broken. If I share something, it may be a call for help, it may be a moment for a need to express myself, it may be that I need to know that there is someone out there that understands despite the uniqueness in our struggles. I am not embarrassed or ashamed for having anxiety or depression and talking about it, and neither should anyone else be. My family should also not be ashamed of me for expressing myself. I know that isn’t the case, and I am lucky for that. If I allow myself to feel the shame as I have in the past, than I allow myself to be defeated. If as a writer, who writes her truth, and who relies on her honesty in writing, I block my truth, because of societal stigma, I will be defeated. Not only by myself but by the environment that clearly wants or allows people like me to be defeated… I will not be defeated. But I am imperfect. If writing about it alleviates the pain and suffering for just a little while, my friends, my dear friends, we must embrace it and welcome it, and in the “right” ways, ….not shun it. I say this, knowing and understanding the incredible depth of this struggle, not only for myself, but also for all my brothers and sisters out there who are struggling to simply keep breathing.
Though there is no such thing as an “on” or “off” switch to these conditions….I appreciate my dear father and mother who recognize that I may feel and act a little differently on this matter, than the norm, and I appreciate them telling me I can beat this, and they will still be there for me even as I remain sincere and honest and write my truth. It makes a wealth of difference when you receive this blessing, this reassurance from a caring mother and father, my two best friends, who deserve everything and more.
So I ask the world to please let me write my truth… Even if you don’t, and even if you place those barriers in front of me.. I will still write. But if you welcome it, and change the psyche that tells you it is inappropriate, or too personal, or annoying, and you instead embrace the need for people like me to openly express myself without retribution or shame or stigma or fear, you will help us defeat those barriers and defeat this war within. And I can say with certainty, the returns will be gratifying and worthwhile.
Thank you for reading this.”