Writing on the internet is difficult. Not only am I acutely aware that everything online is there forever, but I get to deal with the present-day effects as well. I’ve received my fair share of hateful comments. I aim to be up for a discussion and open to learning, but some comments aren’t looking for that. I’ve been told that my mental illness (Borderline Personality Disorder) is just an excuse for being a crappy person. I’ve been told that I don’t seem to have BPD, followed by them diagnosing me over an email. I’ve been told that I am just a terrible human being who has no place writing online.
And whilst it took me some time to adjust, I’ve reached a point where I am okay with receiving such messages. Because I also receive a lot of great messages that balance it out. People with BPD or other mental health issues reach out and tell me that they feel heard, that my articles helped them feel less alone. I can’t think of anything I would rather have than that. I think back to fifteen-year-old Fleurine, who felt so confused and alone, and I know she’d be proud of what I’m doing.
But another struggle has emerged from writing about my mental illness online, and it’s one that I never saw coming. Now that I know people are listening, I feel such a weight of expectations. I feel like I owe them something. I feel like I have to keep things upbeat and inspirational because I’m meant to be proof that you can handle it all.
But some days, I don’t want to wear that brave face, not anymore.
I’ve come a long way with my mental illness, to the point where I am the most functioning I have ever been. But that doesn’t mean that I’m cured, because I can’t be cured. I live with a personality disorder. Every single day is impacted by that.
So whilst I do want to convey to people that things get better and you can learn to manage your personality disorder or mental illness, I don’t want to lie. Acting as if I wake up each day with the strength to choose healthy habits over maladaptive ones is a lie. Acting as if I never slip up or take steps backwards is a lie.
I am human. I am an imperfect human. I still get anxiety attacks for no reason. I still hide from friends when things get difficult. I still have thoughts about self-harm. I want to share those sides of myself and remain honest with my readers.
Because by hiding the hard parts, are you not setting a different impossible standard? By making everything seem like sunshine and rainbows, you run the risk of making people feel like something’s wrong with them if they can’t reach that fictitious point in life.
It seems so simple, to just speak freely about the lowest points of my mental illness and show what a grip they still hold over me. But it isn’t that simple, because once people start reading your work, consequences come into play.
If I write about how difficult some days are, I could scare someone who has just been diagnosed with BPD and stumbled onto my Twitter. If I write about how hard it is to resist thoughts about self-harm, I could scare people and lead them to feel concerned.
All I want to do is be open about mental illness, how you can still have good days but also how difficult the bad days can be. All I want to do is make people understand the personality disorder that has claimed my life. But I run the risk of being triggering, and that’s a risk I take very seriously. If I try to share the truths to my eating disorder or self-harm, it may be read by someone impressionable, someone not as far along in their recovery.
As much as I’d like to fill in the gaps in the conversation surrounding mental illness, I have to be aware that some of these are gaps for a reason, and that to some people, this information will be taken as inspiration. For example, I know first-hand the damaging effect that pro-anorexia and bulimia sites had on me, but discussing that feels like promoting such websites.
I want to connect with people regarding our shared experiences, and yet I remain acutely aware of the power that words can hold.
So how do you walk the line between honesty and triggering? Is it with triggering warnings, or is it by knowing when to draw the line?
I’m still trying to find that answer for myself, and I’m guessing that I’m not the only one. I think there is power in sharing the different perspectives to mental illness, in showing the good days as well as the bad days. But I still do believe in personal responsibility, and I’m trying to work out what that means for me.
I’d like to think that it all comes down to intent. That sharing information with the aim of making someone feel less alone can be differentiated from information aiming to promote maladaptive behaviours. I will never promote the unhealthy behaviours that controlled my life and mind, but I do hope that by discussing them, readers can learn from my mistakes, that they can spot other people who are clearly struggling.
If you don’t want to put on a brave face, then take it off. You don’t have to wear your mask today. Let the world see the bad, as it’s as much of your truth as the good. By sharing our experiences, we work towards a better day when that doesn’t have to be considered ‘brave’ or ‘oversharing’. We work to a time when everyone is educated on mental health and mental illness, when no one has to feel as alone as we did.
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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