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by Nia Patterson

May 23, 2024

Sharing Your Mental Health Story Online Isn’t Easy — Here are 3 Boundaries I Set to Make It Feel Safer

Hey there, friend!

Let’s talk about something that can be both exciting and a little nerve-wracking: sharing your mental health story or neurodivergence journey ONLINE. It’s not every day that we get the chance to be open and honest about our stories and experiences, especially when they are so often stigmatized by society as a whole. But, when we do have the opportunity to speak up and take up space, it actually is super important that we do so if we’re comfortable with it – because by sharing the truth of our mental health story and experiences, we directly help to reduce that stigma.

This is absolutely part of why sharing my own mental health, neurodivergence, and eating disorder recovery stories was so necessary for me over the past 7 years. Who knows, maybe it will be for you, too!

Why Does Sharing YOUR Story Matter?

So, I have a feeling that you might be thinking something along the lines of: “Does it matter if mental health is so much more accepted now than it used to be???” 

And you’re not wrong. Mental Health stories and sharing those stories has definitely become more mainstream nowadays, especially on social media. But 8-10 years ago? Not so much. Not really at all, honestly. 

In fact, when I first created my social media account, it was because I was too scared that my friends would find out just how much my eating disorder had taken over my life. I really needed a safe space where I could anonymously share about my trauma, mental health struggles, and fears around recovery. Somewhere I could shout into a room full of strangers and not have to remember anyone’s face five minutes later – enter Instagram.

Being able to share my story publicly and privately at the same time completely changed the game for my recovery – it went from being a possibility to a reality. I showed up online diligently for years to share my journey, but throughout that time I learned that there are most definitely safer and more protective ways to do what I did without much forethought. 

So, I want to share with you three tips to make sharing your own story online easier and safer for you.

Tip #1: Share the Details That Matter, But Not ALL the Details

Here’s the thing: there’s always going to be some nuance involved in what you choose to share online. You don’t have to overshare in your content, whether it’s blog posts, Instagram posts, or any other format you choose to use to tell your story. BUT, it is important to include the details and anecdotes that you feel are necessary to get your point across and impart wisdom to your audience. Making sure to keep in the most important and impactful details will be super affirming and hold true to who you are.

At the same time, it’s crucial to remember that some of the more graphic experiences of your mental health story can be triggering for others. There’s a fine line you’ll have to walk between deciding what to include and what to cut because it might be too difficult or graphic to responsibly include.

If you’re ever unsure if what you’ve written could be seen as “too much” for your audience, my advice? Ask a peer or friend to read over your work and give you feedback on specific parts. This could mean asking them to review your tone of voice, your storytelling ability, or whether the stories included are too graphic. When you give people a specific container to provide feedback within, it can make their feedback way more helpful for both of you!

Tip #2: Giving Them the Juice

Okay, so there’s this thing I like to call “giving them the juice.” It’s basically my way of describing the process of asking a younger version of yourself what they wish they would have heard from someone older and wiser about the challenge they’re currently struggling with. I call it “giving them the juice” because maybe 2 years ago, you didn’t have the knowledge or understanding that you do now. So what changed? Drinking the juice of the world that changed your life all around, that’s what!

So, think about what you would have wanted or needed to hear in the past to encourage you or help you grow to where you are now. Then, write that chunk of wisdom to that younger version of you. Really take yourself back to where you were about two years ago. Where were you living? What were you eating? How did you dress? Did you have pets? Were you in therapy? What did that version of yourself need to know? What would have actually made their life easier, more fun, or just less complicated?

Writing to that younger, previous version of yourself is an amazing way to get really good at pulling out advice that resonates with those around you. And when you get it right, it’ll hit home for so many people reading your story who are in a similar spot in their own lives.

Get out there and GIVE THEM THE JUICE!

Tip #3: Draft Messy. Then Clean Up.

Lastly, as you get better and better at finding your storytelling style, I highly recommend getting really good at allowing your first draft to be as messy as you need it to be – and sometimes even messier than you think it needs to be.

The goal of your first draft should almost always be to get everything written down, whatever that may be. Then, later on, you can go back and rewrite where necessary, clean it up and make things flow a little better. But the easiest way to do that is to let that first draft be as dense and descriptive as possible.

In fact, you can (and will) go back to pull snippets from that first draft later. So even if you’ve tweaked it in your next drafts, you’ll still have that first draft to go back to and pull from. I highly recommend keeping your first draft in a separate, intact document that you can continue to refer back to, instead of editing over it.

Final Thoughts on Sharing Your Mental Health Story Online

Over the past three steps, we’ve covered some ways that you can make sharing your mental health story with others through various forms of content easier and more impactful. And you know what? I truly believe that you are capable of writing some amazing things! With these recommendations, your writing will resonate with the people you’re writing for, while also respecting your own intentions and holding onto the original meaning of your story.

If you’re looking for another piece where I’ve dived deeper into my own mental health story, you can read my article in Healthline about my ADHD and Autism diagnosis journey here! Or, if you want to learn more about this topic, I’d be happy to chat with you in my DMs on Instagram. You can find me at @thefriendineverwanted.

Check out other QueerPsych articles by Nia Patterson here.

Mental Health, Wellness

by Nia Patterson

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