My first blog post here on Illuminated By U “An Introduction By Joanne Phipps” was also the first time I ever had a sense of “coming clean” as Catherine often calls it. Sure, those very close to me, all 2 or 3 people, knew the details of my abusive relationship and the after effects it has had on my life, but aside from the occasional “someone was once mean to me and that made me very sad” generic posts, I had never put into details in a public forum my story, my journey, like I did in my very first blog post here. And now, I want to share with you the journey I have been on since sharing that very open and honest blog with the not always loving and accepting world.
Writing my initial blog left me feeling “unsure” in the process. It’s not that I didn’t want to share my journey, or be on this journey with Catherine, I just felt unsure of what words to put onto paper (or screen). How do I write a blog I know my friends, my family, are going to read, people who have known me most of my life, who knew me during these dark times in my life, and answer their questions? How do I explain to them why I never reached out, sought their help, wanted them to be there for me? It was overwhelming, unsettling, unnerving. But it was also necessary, therapeutic, and a rewarding experience for me both mentally and emotionally for me.
After posting my blog, I felt that stereotypical sense of a weight being lifted off my shoulders. I felt free, I felt honest. And I enjoyed this feeling, even after people reached out to me, even after people left comments or sent me emails. And then, a few days later, that sense of free was replaced suddenly by an overwhelming sense of judgment and fear, which sent me into one of the worst panic attacks I’ve ever experienced. I cried until it physically hurt, didn’t sleep at all that night, and kept replaying in my mind the words I said in my blog and all the awful things people must think of me.
Even after that night of panic and fear, I am still grateful I made the decision to share my story. The positives still far outweigh the negative. And even though I did have that night of regret, it was learning experience, and one that strengthened me and reminded me that I am strong, I am worthy, and I am most importantly human just as everyone else.
Since sharing my mental health journey, a few people have asked me what being mentally ill feels like, to which I always respond: It feels like nothing anyone else has ever experienced before, because even the exact same diagnosis in two different people don’t mean the exact same experiences cause those two people are in fact different. For me, it’s like being completely fine and absolutely broken beyond repair at the same time. Like being a competitive swimmer and yet every time you put even a single toe into the water you suddenly feel as though you’re going to drown. It’s over planning, and then over planning again, and yet still doubting and second guessing your every choice. It’s like watching life in slow motion, breathing deeply but never having enough air in your lungs.
So remember: mental illness isn’t prejudice, it’s universal. It doesn’t care the color of your skin, the God you pray to, the number of zeros in your back account. It doesn’t care your gender, your job title, your relationships status, or if you’re a parent. And most importantly, it doesn’t define a person’s character, their worth, or their future. Your story is worth sharing because YOU are worth sharing with the world.