I was at Creative Mornings Vancouver last Friday listening to Joseph Wu, a local origami genius I follow on Instagram. He was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago, which led to a depression he continues to wrestle. He opened his talk with this, and the only reason I didn’t run up to tackle-hug him was because I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the yummy, complimentary breakfast sandwich in my lap. (Go to Creative Mornings, yo.)
I also hadn’t checked my ass in the mirror before leaving that morning; I couldn’t be sure it was stage-worthy.
As a fellow mental health broadcaster, I felt proud of Joseph for disclosing that his ADHD and depression make him sometimes hard to work with, known for his temper, a procrastinator, determined to change and thrive despite—and sometimes because of—the wrinkles in his paper. He’s transforming those wrinkles into pure enchantment. Joseph didn’t say this, but I feel like part of his message was, “I’m kind of amazing, and if you can put up with some blippage, you won’t be sorry you stayed. I’m going to fold the shit out of things, you guys.”
I’ve been thinking about the disclosure of mental health issues in more formal spaces. If you haven’t heard, I started a business, y’all. (You should probably go like my Facebook page, okay.) I’m wondering if the existence of this blog, where I often reflect on my own mental health, will become a liability to the business. I was chatting with a friend about it on Facebook before Christmas.
ME: There are consequences to being open in my blog.
FRIEND: What are the consequences?
ME: We might not get clients because I talk about my depression.
FRIEND: Shan, you’ll have the most success being you. You’ll be that awesome web content person who flies the mental health flag HIGH and is an OVERSHARER and is CRAZY and AWESOME! Someone else can be the non-depressed one. Maybe you will get your first clients in the mental health biz —maybe they will pick you SPECIFICALLY because you speak out about mental health. And maybe you won’t do websites for conservative right wing nuts… sounds good to me.
Me: Ooh. That would be cool: If I got hired because I am me!
I love the idea of being transparent about taboo/shameful subjects like mental health. We’re (mostly) all walking around pretending we’re great because it’s the socially appropriate thing to do, and it’s killing us because we’re fucking not great. At least not all the time. It needs to be okay to be not-great. Not-great is just as normal and acceptable as great. And I don’t necessarily mean the kind of not-great that always has a diagnosis behind it. Sometimes we’re just plain it’s-raining-again not-great (because, oh my god, you guys: IT’S RAINING AGAIN), and sometimes we’re fourth-week-throes-of-depression not-great. Either way—why aren’t we talking about it? Why does it feel unsafe to share outside hushed circles of trusted friends?
My friend Lynne has shared this piece of brilliance with me:
I really, really think we need to talk more about mental health and understand that the tough stuff people wrestle with really go hand in hand with a lot of the best things we love about them. Those of us who struggle with ADD, depression, anxiety, etc would probably manage a lot better without the weight of stigma to wrangle as well.
Socially appropriate is shaming, suffocating, exhausting. So, guess what? I’m (sometimes) depressed and awesome at what I do. I’m (sometimes) depressed and the person you want to hire. I’m (sometimes) depressed and about to strategically knock your content socks off.
If I lose clients because they read about my adventures in depression, I think I’m okay with that. The alternative is not talking about it. Secrecy won’t wipe out its existence. I get that omission of less-favourable information sometimes makes people feel better. I’m not about to wear a sandwich board declaring myself Duchess of Depression or anything. I just mean I’m not down with becoming silent in this space. Vulnerability is the heart of Truthfully. It’s the heart of Shannon.
Vulnerability is how I roll.
Roll with me?
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