You often hear people give words like ‘moist’, ‘phlegm’ or ‘mucus’ as their least favourite in the English language, but for me it’s always been ‘vulnerable’. To me, it’s basically a curse word. I guess it’s less to do with the word and more to do with the feeling that descends on me as I say or think it.
Vulnerable or truthful?
People have often described me as someone who’s ‘open’ and ‘vulnerable’, and they say it as a compliment. They commend me for sharing parts of myself that others might not feel comfortable sharing. But when I share things about myself, primarily my experience with mental illness, I don’t feel like it’s me being vulnerable. Instead, I just think of it as candour.
When I’m wearing my ‘normal person’ mask, I can be honest about things without getting swallowed up in the emotion of it all. I can talk about self-harm and seizures and the loss of loved ones without breaking character, for the most part. In fact, doing so is almost like a tool. It helps other people feel comfortable sharing with me and it helps me to connect with others.
But sometimes it feels like a lie. It feels like I’m tricking people into connecting with me because they think I’ve been vulnerable with them, which often they then reciprocate. But, to me, it just feels like I’m being factual so I don’t deserve the credit. I don’t deserve to be called ‘open’. I don’t feel open at all; I feel like I’m welded shut.
However, yesterday, I wholeheartedly confess to having been vulnerable.
It was yet another hard day, one with very low-energy levels, and I was considering posting about my website (and by extension, this mental health diary) on Instagram, but I was absolutely dreading it. I was so scared and, to be honest, I probably wasn’t emotionally ready. It feels like I should have waited for a good day to make such a leap.
But then I was reminded by the internet that yesterday was World Mental Health Day. I had entirely forgotten. So the timing was a little too opportune and I had to do it. I had to make the leap. I finally posted a photo with a brief description of my efforts in the caption and I shared one of my Confessions in my story. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in a long time.
So why bother?
I can’t quite explain why it’s ‘honest’ when I talk to people about my struggles but when I write about it, it’s ‘vulnerable’. As soon as I posted that photo I logged out of Instagram, left my phone in a different room and dove straight into housework while listening to a JBU podcast. I felt icky, exposed and, indeed, vulnerable.
One difference, I suppose, is the level of detail I’m now sharing. It’s one thing to tell people I’m depressed but it’s another to publically catalogue my efforts to do simple things like get out of bed or take a shower. My mood swings now have live updates and I’m inviting people to watch every small step, whether those are successes or failures. This level of detail, I guess, is where it turns from candour to vulnerability for me. I can’t say that I care for it, but it feels important.
When I was first coming to terms with my depression I would have loved to see someone else share the reality of the day-to-day. I needed to know that my experiences weren’t completely alien but I kinda had to figure it out for myself. Hopefully, this series will make its way to someone who needs it and then it will all be worth it.