CHANGE IS HOPE

It may seem a little strange to start a new blog and then abandon it for a few months, right?

Well, in my opinion, it’s not strange at all. In fact, for me, it was absolutely necessary.

I shared with you all in my last post about my struggle with authentic vulnerability. I stated that my goal in creating this new blog was to continue sharing real stories about my life – like I had done in my previous blog – except this time; I wasn’t doing so as an anonymous entity. I knew this would be a huge challenge for me, but I underestimated just how challenging it would actually be. So, instead of becoming overwhelmed by my struggle with authentic vulnerability and shutting down completely, I decided to get curious and start exploring the reasons as to why I felt so uncomfortable sharing my true self with the world.

Surprisingly, I felt like this part of my healing journey needed to be explored more thoroughly in my real life, before I would be able to share anything in-depth about my life online again. I needed to give myself time to be self-reflective; focus on the work I was doing in therapy, during my time outside of therapy, and explore new opportunities, so that I could start actually overcoming my struggle with authentic vulnerability and continue blogging again.

So, what have I learned about myself over the past few months? Well, if you want a vague, oversimplified answer then:

“Healing isn’t a linear process and change takes time.”

I know that this phrase is a cliché in the mental health discourse but it’s also accurate, in my experience. I would love to sit here and tell you that everything up until this point has been and continues to be going well for me, but that just isn’t true. Life is messy, and is filled with ups and downs. But guess what? That’s totally okay (…or at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself until I whole-heartedly believe it!) So, in the spirit of embracing the uncomfortable and practicing authentic vulnerability, I will expand on my “oversimplified answer” and share snapshots of the various experiences (from two different perspectives) that I have had, that have led me to many realizations in my own story.

Perspective #1

Have I had good moments, or days, over these past few months? Absolutely. Even though my depression and anxiety have come back with (what feels like) a full-on vengeance, I’ve managed to maintain contact with those I see regularly, I’ve made new friends, and have reconnected with old ones. I became more involved in my community by volunteering to help coach sports teams at my old high school. I also accepted an opportunity to speak publicly (for the first time ever) about my life, faith, and mental health journey at the CLAY Gathering that took place this summer in Thunder Bay, ON (a special thank you to @JaseWatford and @SickNotWeak for their encouragement and support! *You can find/follow them on Twitter*) I traveled to Toronto to see a Taylor Swift concert with a wonderful university friend, and was able to catch up with my other “out of town” friends during that same trip. Most importantly to me though, is that I have been working hard in individual therapy, group therapy, and during my time outside of therapy to be open and honest about what’s going on in my life, so that I understand myself; my emotions, behaviours, thought processes, and my life experiences in a more helpful or constructive way.

Perspective #2

Have I also had bad moments, days, (or even weeks) over the past few months? Honestly, I’ve had way more than I’d like to admit. Dealing with the stress of navigating complex health care and government systems and experiencing setbacks is exhausting and frustrating. Managing family drama is never a fun time. Spending hours in the library trying to finish my school work so that I can finally graduate, leaves me feeling hopeless, at times. Medication not working like it used to, or experiencing annoying side effects from medication (I am so over nose bleeds, for real) is also incredibly challenging to cope with. Dealing with traumas, nightmares, and frequent dissociation. Putting in so much effort into all of my therapies and not feeling like I’m making the progress that I think I should* be making (*Side note: calling myself out while editing for this unhelpful thinking pattern of the “should” which takes away from the reality of how far I’ve actually come in my healing journey!) Noticing that I’m starting to distance myself from my real life and online friends/communities because due to frequent dissociation, I tend to get caught up in existential thoughts of “What’s the point?” … Sometimes it all feels extremely overwhelming.

.   .   .

Taking into account both of these perspectives of my experiences over the past few months is why I am trying to embrace the phrase, “Healing isn’t a linear process and change takes time.” Staying engaged in therapies and interpersonal relationships when it would be easier to give up, trying new things – even if it makes me feel anxious or scared – but doing it regardless, getting back up every time life knocks me down… This is the reality of my healing process; it is filled with ups and downs. This is okay.

It is through all of these experiences and self-reflection that I’ve learned that my struggle with authentic vulnerability is influenced by a multitude of factors. It is partially rooted by the Scandinavian/Western culture I grew up in: one where it’s not always encouraged to acknowledge your problems, let alone talk about them publicly. This creates an enormous (and unrealistic) amount of pressure to appear “perfect” in all aspects of your life at all times. To break that down further, I come from a life filled with traumas that I am still trying to work through and it’s harder for me to share those sensitive topics as my real self; again, partially due to my upbringing and partly due to my personality traits – being quiet, shy, introverted, and sensitive to negative criticism. I sometimes fear (but less so now) that by openly sharing my struggles, I will face negative repercussions in my future, mostly when it comes to my career or interpersonal relationships. Sharing my stories authentically online can also feel very one-sided and odd at times; like someone might know a whole lot about me from what I share and I know little or nothing about them. Have I mentioned that I have social anxiety and tend to overanalyze everything?

So, after many months of challenging (and rewarding) experiences, exploration, and self-reflection: Am I now completely comfortable with putting myself out there and being vulnerable all the time? No… but the difference is that now I am consciously making a greater effort to be more vulnerable in both my real life and online interactions, and I am worrying less about what people think about me. I have a greater understanding about my history with authentic vulnerability, my emotions, thoughts, and behaviours, which has helped me form a more balanced perspective of my experience with vulnerability. Even though I feel like this blog post is a little bit all over the place, in terms of how I would typically write a blog post, I am fine with that. It’s real. It’s vulnerable. It’s a piece of my story.

I’m still here, trying to figure it out and staying curious about my experiences; and I hope you are too. I believe that change is hope and that healing is a journey, not a destination. I’m going to keep holding onto this mindset and continue challenging myself to overcome my struggles.

I’m just going to say this one more time, in case I haven’t said it enough already throughout this post: “Healing isn’t a linear process and change takes time.”

Stay curious,

Linla

MY STRUGGLE WITH AUTHENTIC VULNERABILITY

When I finally felt ready to blog again, I knew that this time, I wanted to create and share content that was out of my comfort zone. I wanted to tell my stories – like I had been for the past two years – but this time, remove the anonymity that had previously allowed me to feel safe and comfortable with sharing such intimate details about my life and my struggles.

In real life, I struggle immensely with vulnerability. My theory is that this struggle comes as a result of childhood trauma, and my social anxiety, but I haven’t quite figured that out yet, to be honest. Deciding to “remove the mask” of anonymity online was a huge challenge for me, as that would require getting comfortable with the uncomfortable by facing my fear of authentic vulnerability.

The cognitive dissonance that I experienced from portraying different versions of myself, online and in real life, became incredibly overwhelming for me to manage. This, obviously, was never my intention when I first started Twitter and blogging (authentically and anonymously) but unfortunately, it was the end result. The platforms that had once brought me a sense of belonging and connectedness, had overtime developed into a debilitating depression, excessive anxiety, isolation, and a full-blown identity crisis. Fortunately, over the past few months, I was able to accept that it would be necessary for me to be my authentic self in all areas of my life, so that I could become “unstuck” from my unhealthy mindset, and continue sharing my stories online again.

The biggest question(s) that I kept revisiting before creating this new blog were, “Would I be able to actually create authentic content once I expose my real self; or will I (intentionally or unintentionally) end up censoring myself and sharing a carefully crafted version of myself so that I feel less exposed – less vulnerable?” (Which I’m sure would only serve to create more cognitive dissonance if this was the case…) Once I honestly thought that I could be authentic and vulnerable (and feel confident with that decision) I created this blog.

I haven’t shared too much on here yet, but I think that from what I have shared so far, I am achieving what I’ve set out to achieve this time around – pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and embracing authentic vulnerability. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t feel incredibly anxious when I share a new blog post, but whenever I start to feel the anxiety rise, I remind myself as to why I am doing this in the first place. From there, I am able to acknowledge that this is scary for me because it is something that is new to me, and that my reaction is totally normal. I understand that it will take time for me to feel comfortable in this new chapter of my life; being just as real, open, and honest with everyone as I used to be when I was an anonymous entity.

I think my greatest fear about being authentic and vulnerable now, as a real person online, is that I am willingly opening myself up to judgment, criticism, and possible rejection. But, on the other hand, I am also opening myself up to forming real connections, a true sense of belonging, and a new type of understanding. I think that when you struggle with vulnerability as much as I do, it’s easy to default to portraying yourself to the world in a way that doesn’t always accurately reflect your authentic reality. It is much easier to censor ourselves and paint a nicer picture, so that we feel that the stories we share are relatable, while also being digestible for others to consume.

As my story continues to unfold, I am going to continue to make sure that I am only sharing an honest depiction of my life and experiences with you all – regardless of how terrifying that feels to me! I am not going to sugarcoat, or manipulate my experiences through my storytelling, just to make myself feel more comfortable and less vulnerable because I think that would be doing a great disservice to myself and to anyone who follows my journey.

A final thought, if anyone else has struggled with, or struggles with authentic vulnerability, please reach out to me on here, or on Twitter (@hellolinla) and let me know what has helped you overcome this struggle, or what coping skills you use to manage this struggle!

I appreciated your feedback in advance 🙂

Much love,

Linla