I’m oh-so-behind on the WEGO Health HAWMC Prompts. I knew I’d never get to all of them, but here I am being hard on myself. I even tried to long-hand some on the plane ride to Vegas, which was incredibly ambitious of me, considering I was living on dayquil and anxiety meds for the flight out there and took the red-eye back. I haven’t looked at what I wrote yet…could be medication/sleep deprivation-inspired genius. Or total nonsense. Probably the latter.
So forgive me for using a prompt from April 6th. But it’s the one that spoke to me today.
I write about my health because…
I didn’t mean to start writing about my health. When I began writing, it was just for me. I wanted to sort some things out and have some accountability for my journaling. Having an audience (even if it was only a few friends) gave my writing a purpose and I found my voice. My first real post was titled Learned Happiness and even though it began more as a philosophical reflection on happiness, it somehow ended up being about my experience with postpartum depression. The words kind of just typed themselves. Only a handful of people knew about what I had been through, so I literally took a deep breath before hitting “post”.
Two things happened as a result of that post. First, the response I got back was amazing. Friends and strangers emailed and commented to tell me how much they appreciated hearing about my struggle. They were grateful for the honesty and each of the comments was encouraging. It’s an amazing feeling to allow yourself to be so vulnerable and then get back nothing but love and respect. More importantly, when I hit “post” I felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders – a lightening of my spirit. Writing about the postpartum depression took the last little bit of shame I had tucked away in the cobwebby spaces of my mind and shook it out like a dirty rug.
I wondered. If I can write about the postpartum depression, separating myself from it enough to let go of the shame, could I do the same with my anxiety? This was even harder, because the anxiety and mood swings aren’t over. They are still a part of who I am, and I usually work very hard to hide them.
With each new post, I felt terrified that sharing about my anxiety and mood swings would somehow lessen who I was to the friends and family reading it. I worried they would think less of me. But the opposite happened. Not only do I get the impression that they find me more interesting because of these weaknesses, but I feel stronger and more myself every time. Writing gives me a power over my condition.
I like that I am hacking away at stigma. I am honored to be spreading awareness for mental health disorders. But mostly, I’m grateful to have an opportunity to air my dirty laundry. Because everybody’s got some, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
I used to think I would have to conquer my mental health issues before being happy. But here I am, writing about my experiences as a parent and a woman. Writing about learning to be happy despite those little demons sitting on my shoulders. Being honest about my daily struggles with mental health. Because I’m in a place (finally) where I can.