Blogging about mental health can be very rewarding, but it’s not without its challenges.
The Cons of Blogging About Mental Health
Let’s get the not-so-great stuff out of the way first, shall we?
1. Some people expect you to have all the answers.
I’ve had people become angry at me in the past because I didn’t know how to “fix” their issues. I’d love to have all the answers, but mental health is a very personal thing. What works for me doesn’t always work for others.
I also have no training in treating mental illness. I talk openly and honestly about my experiences, but that’s as far as my knowledge goes. Having people message me while in crisis can be tricky and I don’t always know what to say. Though I remain grateful they’ve reached out, I do think it’s important to keep in mind that we may not be able to offer much assistance.
2. You feel a sense of responsibility.
Following on from that last point, you WANT to help as many people as you can. I’ve stayed up until all hours talking to people in the past because I wanted to make sure they were okay. That’s not healthy. It puts a huge strain on my own wellbeing, but I don’t want to shun away someone who is reaching out.
It’s really difficult not to feel pressure to be there for everyone. As we know how hard it can be to ask for help, we don’t want to do anything that could prevent someone from doing it again.
3. It’s draining.
There are times when doing a deep dive into your emotions just sucks the life out of you. We do it in the name of raising awareness, and helping others know they’re not alone. But there have certainly been posts I’ve written in the past where I’ve felt exhausted afterwards.
4. Some people think they know you.
I share a lot with others, through both my blog and my social media. This openness can cause some people to think they know me inside and out. Their approach to me can be overly friendly. Sometimes, it’s pleasant enough, but other times can be uncomfortable.
The truth is that I am a very guarded person. I only share as much as I am comfortable with. There’s so much the internet doesn’t get to see. To know me properly takes A LOT of time.
5. Some people forget to ask how you are.
Again, I think being open causes some people to assume they know where you are at mentally. I mean, if I was going through a tough time, I would have said, right? It’s not necessarily true. Occasionally, I do the complete opposite and just avoid interaction as much as I can. People pop up in my direct messages and just get straight to whatever the reason is, without the courtesy of asking how I am. It’s not that I would divulge the inner workings of my mind to a total stranger (see the last half of point four) but it’s polite to ask in any case.
This is a universal struggle for all bloggers, but let’s take a look at it in the context of mental health blogging.
Some mental health bloggers choose to share every part of their journey – the highs, lows and all that’s in between. This isn’t what I do. I often don’t talk about the harder times until I’m through them. The reason for this isn’t that I don’t want people to know, but because I prefer to wait until my head is clearer to talk about it.
Every now and then, I start to question if this makes me bad at what I do. It makes me wonder if I’m feeding into the idea that there has to be a positive spin on mental illness. There doesn’t. Often, there isn’t. I worry that people will think I’m fake because I’m not saying every detail along the way.
Of course I’m not happy all the time, but I don’t choose to share that side of things with the internet as it’s happening. I talk about it with Neal, or I wait for it to pass. Once I’m through it, I am much more comfortable saying “it’s been a rough few days but I’m okay now!”
7. Some people expect you to only talk about mental health.
This applies to both your blog and general conversations. I’ve seen bloggers get a hard time because they wrote about something other than mental health. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. To link back to point three, it’s so tiring to ALWAYS be talking about mental health. Happy as we are to do it, it’s not all there is to us. We need the space to express ourselves about a whole number of other things, too.
My blog was born out of my struggles. Mental health will always have a place in it. I’ll always try to spread awareness and encourage others to talk about it. Be that as it may, I want the freedom to write about all sorts of things, which is why I seldom refer to myself as a “mental health blogger”. Those who do, though, shouldn’t be chastised if they decide to branch out a little!
8. Imposter syndrome.
For those who aren’t aware, imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern which creates fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
I don’t think this is necessarily exclusive to mental health bloggers, but writing about my mental health seems to be where this creeps in the most. It’s a bizarre thing when your mind starts saying things like “you’re not sick enough to talk about this.” And though I would never claim to have all of the answers, sometimes even offering advice from my own experiences make me think “what gives me the right to write any of this?”
9. It’s hard to monetise.
Now, this isn’t such an issue for me as my blog is much more general, but I wanted to include it as it’s something other mental health bloggers have brought to my attention.
I can’t stress enough that I don’t believe for a second that mental health bloggers get into it for this reason. Yet, I do think it’s unfortunate that there can be less options.
Having discussed this with a couple of people in the past, part of it is guilt or the prospect of shame from making a profit from other people’s struggles. I fully understand this, but I think it’s important to think of it as a mutually beneficial situation, rather than one-sided. If a blogger I like is offering something to help with my mental health and I have the opportunity to support them at the same time? That’s a good thing.
Sadly, I think there will always be people out there who want to twist it into something malicious and put you down for it. Be that from envy or misjudging you, it’s likely to happen. So, I’m going to paraphrase Matt Haig here, who I believe has been subjected to a bit of criticism about his books, and tweeted something along the lines of “there’s no shame in turning what is an awful situation into something that benefits you.”
If you want to monetise and you can find a way to do it, then I think you should. Loyal readers will appreciate it’s well-intentioned.
The Pros of Blogging About Mental Health
The stuff that makes it all worthwhile.
1. Encouraging others to get help.
The first time someone messaged me to say they had arranged to see a counsellor because of me, I cried. It was such solid evidence that what I did mattered. I was so touched that they had taken the time to let me know, and became overwhelmed with emotions.
I’ve been fortunate to have a few more interactions like this since, and each one makes me feel so incredibly happy. Not only because it reminds me that I’m helping people, but because I know the other person is trying to get themselves out of a dark place.
When I shared these stories with my counsellor, she was quick to say “these are only the people you know about – your impact probably goes far beyond them”. It’s wonderful to think people could be reaching out as a consequence of what you do, whether they tell you about it or not.
2. You are a voice for others.
A lot of people don’t feel comfortable in sharing how they feel, or don’t know how to put it into words. Those of us who enjoy writing have an opportunity to put it out there in a way people understand. It can be helpful to make sense of their own feelings, or identify the best way to express it to their loved ones.
One of my most popular posts, What Does It Feel Like To Have Anxiety?, struck a chord with so many people. It was shared by people who wanted others to know exactly how it felt. I had individuals contact me to say that so much of what I’d said had resonated with them that they realised they needed to speak to a doctor. Using my voice meant others could find theirs.
3. Educating others.
Discussing your experiences gives others an insight into what life is like with a mental illness. This is so important to break down the stigma and create more compassion.
For example, changing the idea that being depressed means you’re sad all the time. In actual fact, people can struggle with high functioning depression. There are still symptoms to look out for, both in others and ourselves. Raising awareness of this encourages everyone to look a little deeper, rather than taking someone at face value and assuming everything is good in their life.
It gives people a platform to talk about lesser known mental illnesses, too. Though I had an awareness of other disorders, I’ve been given a much deeper insight into them from other bloggers. I only really knew the term “borderline personality disorder” but I’ve learnt so much about it since I started connecting with this community.
4. Connecting with people who understand.
I have read countless blog posts about depression and anxiety since I started and the comfort they have brought me is immeasurable. There were lots of symptoms of these illnesses which made me feel alien. Things I couldn’t do that everyone else made look so easy. Situations I felt like I should be able to handle.
Every time I read a post and think “wow, I could have written this!”, I am reminded that I’m not alone. That’s hugely important.
5. The community is inspiring.
Writing about mental health has brought some truly exceptional people into my life. Reading their stories is so moving. Their resilience, their determination and their courage is incredible.
These are people who are fighting every day. They keep pushing forward. They’re driven to bettering the lives of others and reducing the stigma around mental health. It’s a pleasure to witness and wonderful to be a part of it.
The majority of people are also very supportive, not only with your mental health journey, but your blogging one, too. It’s nice to know you have people rooting for you.
6. It’s a good outlet.
Having somewhere you can go and write about things is a great way to get it off your mind. I’m not always comfortable speaking about what’s going on in my head, but I’m happy enough to write about it. I don’t always publish what I write, but blogging has helped to create this habit of expression.
Rather than keeping your emotions bottled up, you have somewhere you can go and just let it all out.
7. You can explore your own feelings.
Writing about certain things has brought up new thoughts and approaches for me, on more than one occasion. The process of putting it all out there and working through it allows you to identify things that maybe weren’t so clear previously.
I’ve had similar lightbulb moments while blogging as I did while attending counselling, which is great. Gaining that clarity is invaluable.
Now, you may be thinking, “hold on, there’s more cons than pros? Why do you do it?”. For me, it comes down the fact that the pros hold more weight. They are much more valuable reasons. What blogging about my mental health has given me is wonderful. Though it has its flaws, they’re not enough to stop me because the good things motivate me much more.
Blogging about mental health can be daunting. You are opening up and being vulnerable. It’s nerve-wracking, especially the first few times. Though it does get easier, I still find myself hovering over the “publish” button. I do believe, however, that the pros outweigh the cons. They are what keep me going. So, blogging about mental health is not easy… but it is worth it.