In a recent post, I discussed some of my challenges with mental health and depression.
I have been thinking about writing about this for some time, mainly as a way to reflect and make sense of it.
I always put it off as I was concerned about what others would say. There is the hesitance to not get too real with others. I was worried that people would look at me differently, or measure their words and be gentle around me.
The truth is that I’m absolutely fine. I needed to come to terms with some skeletons in the closet. The funny thing about skeletons in the closet is that when you don’t deal with them…they not only stick around, but they start lifting weights and getting stronger.
I’m fine. If I wasn’t…I wouldn’t have written that post.
Finding Gifts in the Suffering
One of the pieces that inspired me to write the post and share more about myself was this interview with Mary Karr on the Tim Ferriss Show.
Mary Karr is the author of three award-winning, bestselling memoirs (The Liars’ Club, Cherry, Lit). She is also the author of The Art of Memoir, which details her own process as she breaks down the craft of memoir, and Tropic of Squalor, her latest volume of poetry.
Listening to Karr, I continued to think about the challenges of writing and creating digital content. We’re always trying to position ourselves a certain way. There’s a certain amount of concern in how much we share about ourselves.
I reflected on my experiences guiding individuals in K-12 and in higher ed as they write, and develop a digital identity. My guidance has always indicated that they have a choice to share as much about themselves as possible. I indicated that I strive to be as open as possible. That is not entirely true.
I realized that I wasn’t being real on this blog. I have almost 500 posts just on this blog. My newsletter has about 300 issues to this date. While talking with a friend after my last post, we both agreed that I’m not truly myself in my writing in these spaces. I’m a facsimile of what I think others want to see from me.
I’ll try to use this blog as a way to be honest with myself…and my readers. We don’t always recognize the gifts we’re given by suffering through disappointing and difficult times until long after the fact. I chose to not ignore trauma from my past and only share in person with those close to me.
Keeping It Real
After I wrote up and shared the post, I had a number of friends and colleagues reach out on social media, or through private channels to thank me for being brave and sharing. I honestly just wanted to share my story, and hopefully, this would normalize discussions about mental health.
I also took some time (thanks to COVID) to think about what is important in my life. I decided that I matter. I also decided that my partner and children matter. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a lot of friends that I value deeply. But, at the end of the day, I realized that if my partner and kids were okay with me sharing…it’s ok.
There is some danger in this work. As Karr indicates in the interview, “everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory’s waters drowns a little.”
Some of these posts will show me to be a fraud and a fool. Some will show me to be a human being trying to figure things out. Sometimes I’ll get it right. Many other times I’ll be completely wrong.
As I make space for more of my memories in my writing, I’ll remember that our memories are not a perfect storage system. It is a filter of who we are. As I write about how I perceive things in the world, it’ll be a reflection of my landscape and the filters that keep me from truly seeing what is going on.