Don’t Underestimate the Exhaustion of Sharing Our Struggle

Published on 9/13/2021

I began writing online in May 2020 with a clear goal. I wanted to write the content that I needed when I was struggling most. That isn’t to say that I don’t still struggle or that my articles are set in the past, but rather that I was motivated to fill the gap. We’re so picky in how we discuss mental health and mental illness. We discuss the easier parts and then don’t approach the darker stuff that continues to affect thousands, if not millions, daily. We shy away from topics like self-harm, suicidality, purging and more.

I’d never change the world, but I wanted to help just one person to feel less alone. For someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder to read my work and understand that they’re not alone, they’re not crazy. For someone struggling with self-harm to understand why, to know other people struggle with this too.

Maybe there was a selfish element to it as well. Not just in the clicks and claps that fuel my self-worth, but in the ability to unload my struggle somewhere. To get all of these thoughts and fears out of my mind and onto the page. Maybe I was trauma dumping on the internet.

I began writing online in May 2020 and have written 205 articles.

They’re not all gems, far from it, but they all come from a personal place. They all discuss things that I care about. They all took time and effort, not just physically but also emotionally. They all took a toll on me.

Bleeding onto the page

I have written about almost every aspect of my mental illness. I’ve talked about BPD and how it affects my life, how it destroys my relationships. I’ve talked about going to therapy, about getting too attached to my therapist. I’ve talked about my eating disorder, how I struggle to identify as a feminist when I’m so ashamed of my body. I’ve talked about self-harm and how self-sabotage can be a sneaky form of that. I’ve talked about everything my depression has taken from me, about how lonely and exhausting it can be. I recently also began to open up about my grief, as I lost my father three years ago and it hurts every single day.

I have shared; I have probably over-shared. It can be so difficult to open up to the internet, to know that future employers, current colleagues, old friends and family members can see every word of it. That they’ve seen me talk about all of these highly taboo topics and that it now feeds into their opinion of me. I’ve hesitated over the ‘publish’ button, I’ve been inches away from deleting something, I’ve avoided promoting the most personal articles.

But still, I carry on. That’s why I carry on, because these topics shouldn’t be taboo and the only way to do that is to keep normalising them. I keep writing about all the crap in my life with the hopes that someone out there is hearing me, fuelled only by the moments that this is confirmed.

“Thank you”

Nothing warms my tired soul more than that, than opening my inbox or checking the comments section, and seeing someone express gratitude. It’s a conflicting relief, as I don’t feel like I deserve their praise. I haven’t done anything that great, I’m not even a good person, I like to remind myself of this. But someone has read my article and taken a moment to let me know that I was heard, or that they feel heard.

It reminds me of why I’m on this long and treacherous path. Why I’m apparently risking future employment and any resemblance of privacy, because someone heard me and felt better for it. I get to educate people about one of the most stigmatised mental illnesses and show those struggling that there is life with BPD. I get to bring a voice to people who aren’t ready yet, and it invigorates me.

I read every single comment. I screenshot so many of them. I have cried over them.

Once, I took the leap and shared a highly personal article on my private Instagram, and I was overwhelmed by the comments that flooded in from people I know. So many shared their own struggles with eating disorders, women I had known for years yet never considered that they had such issues too. They chose to confide in me because I had unwittingly confided in them. When you share with other people, you give them the space to share with you; you’ve already made the first move. And what a wonderful thing that is, to create a space for sharing, a space for healing.

“You’re a terrible person”

At least 30% of the comments I receive are not positive, and far from it. There is no in-between, people either love my work or detest it, and those who detest it are determined to be vocal about this. I have received entire essays in the comments section. I have been called so many things, many of which are too rude to include in this article. I have witnessed my work be ripped to shreds, watched as my experiences are turned against me. I’m told that I choose to be mentally ill, I choose to be unhappy, I choose not to be skinny, I choose to ruin everyone’s life.

People like to say that by sharing online, you’re opening yourself up for critique and criticism. In a way, I guess that’s true, as you’re entering into the public sphere. But I’m not trying to be controversial, I’m not trying to go viral; I just want to talk about these things. I just want to write because that is what I love most in this world. I wake up wanting to write and I go to sleep wanting to write. I am a writer at my core and a person second.

A breakthrough moment with this barrage of criticism was when my ex told me that I don’t have to reply to these comments. That I don’t have to explain myself or apologise. That I can just ignore them. I had never even considered the fact that I don’t owe them my time and energy, that they can keep believing that they’re right.

You can’t keep giving

You can’t give from an empty well. I think that’s how the saying goes. Either way, the point remains, you can’t keep giving to everyone around you without taking something for yourself.

I don’t think people understand how exhausting it is to share on the internet. To write entire articles about your worst moments, your biggest fears, the traumas that keep you up at night. It is an emotional drain. Not only coming up with article ideas but packaging them into something people will want to read. Then trying to promote them without losing their essence and navigating the minefield of a comments section.

It is exhausting, and I wish I had realised that earlier. I spent the entirety of lockdown churning out content to the point that I no longer cared for what I was writing; I lost the love for my own writing. I felt like my pain and struggle existed only for others, that everything was a potential article rather than my own experience. I felt like I owed my readers, that by posting less, I was letting everyone down.

But I was just so exhausted. To the extent that I stopped loving writing, I stopped waking up with the desire to write. Instead, I would sit behind my desk and search for inspiration when it used to flow so easily that I’d have dozens of ideas lined up. I was no longer proud of my work, and by that effect, I wasn’t proud of myself.

I didn’t even realise that I was taking a break. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but it should have been. Instead, I just wrote less and less, watching my reach and earnings dwindle with it. I battled with this, as someone who measures their self-worth in their productivity, and felt like I was constantly at war with my own mind.

But the time away helped, as I reached a point where I felt excited to write again. I felt ready to approach the topics that matter the most to me and to do them justice. I wasn’t prepared to offer my trauma on a silver platter again, it had to be on my terms and with my purpose. But I know why I’m doing this, and that’s enough to fuel me forward.

Don’t underestimate the effort and strength it takes to share online, whether that is an article, a comment or a tweet. These people are sacrificing a lot for you, and it’s crucial we recognise that. So to everyone else sharing their pain online, I applaud you, I am thankful for you, and I hope you continue to put your wellbeing first.

Fleur

Fleur

Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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