If there’s one thing I hate about my anxiety, it’s having to order decaf coffee. Believe it or not, it is actually harder to go into a coffee shop at 7 am and order a decaf beverage and deal with the inquisitive look from the barista than it is to have an open conversation with someone about anxiety. There is still certainly stigma swirling around mental health and all aspects that go with it, but I’d like to think our generation has actually done a decent job at creating a space that makes it at least acceptable, if not always easy, to discuss everything from depression to panic attacks to sexual assault.
THAT. IS HUGE.
A few months ago, Alyssa Milano started the #metoo social media movement intended to connect those who had been affected by sexual assault or harassment and show victims that they are far from alone. The movement had a major impact, at least on my Facebook feed, and it was beyond powerful to log on and see the pictures of my friends and family bravely sharing parts of their story and creating a space where others could do so as well.
While the most recent, this is by far not the first campaign that encourages us to have open conversations about stigmatized topics. Which I am 10000% all for. At the same time, I’ve found that our new encouragement to share has created an unintended pressure that we HAVE to share or NEED to share. It’s almost like we’re trying to go from an environment where no one shares to where everyone has to share.
Sharing part of your story looks different to everyone. When I got diagnosed with anxiety two years ago, I initially told my friends and family and eventually ended up writing a post on my personal blog about it. I shared my story for the purposes of reaching out to those who could support me, but also in the hopes that it could help someone else as well. That was what worked for me to feel connected, but it’s not what works for everyone. For many, the thought of sharing an experience of mental health or sexual assault on social media is DAUNTING, not because it’s not acceptable, but because it’s not right for them. While there are so many benefits to sharing things on social media and creating a platform for stigmas to be broken down, it is not for everyone. And that’s ok.
The goal of breaking down stigmas should always be to create an environment where people can feel comfortable sharing, but no one should ever feel like they need to. Your story and every part of it is yours and yours alone and it’s up to you to decide how, when, and who you share it with. If participating in the #metoo campaign made you feel connected to the millions of other women who have experienced something similar to you, that’s amazing. But if you didn’t want to participate and instead just had a conversation with your mom or your girlfriends, that’s ok too. Your story is yours and it deserves to be heard, by as many or as few as you wish.