I have recently experienced a mental health burnout.
Normally, when I say that I mean Im tired of dealing with my own mental health, but not this time. This time I am just jaded regarding the blogging I do.
Just over two years ago I went public with my condition on Facebook and Twitter. And the response was overwhelmingly positive. I received a lot of emails, texts and even a phone call or two (I didnt realize people still used this outmoded form of communication any longer) of support. People thanked me for saying what I said. People told me to stay strong. People were surprised and never figured, and still others claimed to have known all along.
I immediately began using social media as a way to make comments, share articles, and express my vantage point about mental health. It was scaled back compared to what my voice would become, but it was a good way to ease myself into talking openly about mental health, my person struggle, and the community at large and the issues I perceived regarding it. In just a few months I started a WordPress site and began to post essays. The positive response and desire to have more autonomy led me to build my own website. And just about six months after my coming out party on social media, I had a fully-fledged mental health blog of my own.
I was posting near daily, often multiple essays a day. I tried to tackle what I thought were bigger issues than just my day to day ramblings. I had intentions of turning my work into a book one day. I tinkered with the format, how often and when to publish, what topics to cover, what my voice was going to be, and the things I felt I needed to say.
Initially the comments were nothing but positive. People wanted me to push deeper, be more honest, reveal more, go darker. And I began to push myself outside of my already loosened comfort zone.
And this is where I began to run into negative feedback. And frankly, a lot of it. People were scared by what I said. People didnt want me to promote the blog on Facebook, or at least not promote it with snippets of content. People didnt like me revealing my thoughts about people close to me.
However, seemingly all of the posts that got the most negative attention also got the most views and support. Meanwhile my pieces on new science or medical advances or just general accounts of the disease got almost no play. People wanted the dirty side, the dark side. So I continued to give it to them.
Now, I should say here that I wasnt only concerned with my pageviews. The content that was getting the most hits was the content I wanted to write. I was more than three solid years into heavy and constant episodes, including a couple hospitalizations and ECT. It felt right that where I wanted the blog to go was also where my readers seemed to be interested in going. So I went.
I got to the point where I was comfortable saying absolutely anything on my mind. I blogged during panic attacks, I blogged during deep depressions and while I was having suicidal ideations, I blogged at times when I thought I wouldnt be around to ever publish the essay I was writing. But I did publish it. I published them all.
But something fun happened a few months ago. For the first time in four years I started to feel normal for a prolonged period of time. And outside of a handful of bad days and some serious anxiety at times, I have been feeling normal since.
I wrote some essays about how I was feeling better, about what life without symptoms is like, how bipolar still affects you even if you arent cycling. But no one was reading. My darkest blogs amassed readership in the thousands, but my blogs about feeling normal sometimes ran in the single digits. And it is hard to be motivated, especially with a busy life, a family, friends, and a new-found desire to go out and experience life for the first time in literally half a decade. So the writing pared down, the posting was less frequent, and the readership dwindled.
But surprisingly, again, the feedback from my readers dovetailed exactly with my desires. Im burnt out on this. I dont mind being defined as a person with bipolar disorder, and I love to embrace and push the community, but at the same time, I have other interests, my family is growing, it has been a beautiful (if not extremely hot) summer, and I feel amazing!
Im jaded with mental health blogging. I feel that being away from writing every day has allowed me to decompress from the experiences I was having. Although, admittedly, the benefit of writing daily was forcing myself to evaluate my mind and mood, and now I am just floating through life.
But I am starting to get the itch back, despite no change in my mood. I want to get back into the exercise of evaluating, tinkering in my head, pushing myself and writing.
Maybe this essay is the one that brings it back.
Read the rest of Steve’s blogs for IBPF here or visit his personal blog here.