The Therapeutic Value of Community
The benefits of blogging about mental illness.
As a mental health nurse, recommending blogging as a therapeutic strategy to my clients wasn’t something that had ever crossed my mind. It was only after I began blogging about my own experiences with mental illness that I realized what a powerful tool this was.
I recently did a survey on my blog to gather input from fellow mental health bloggers on the therapeutic value of mental health blogging. A number of people actually thanked me for bringing it up, because they felt it was such an important issue to bring spread awareness about. Despite being valued and well recognized within the blogging community, though, awareness of blogging as a mental health tool really hasn’t pushed its way into the mental health professional community (at least not yet), which is a shame.
Writing can be a great way to process and release distressing thoughts and emotions. A number of survey respondents identified that writing allowed them to get a new perspective and better understand what was really going on. For me, reading my unfiltered thoughts can allow me to see just how ridiculous some of them are in the light of day. It’s also a good way to see connections that weren’t necessarily apparent when things were madly bubbling away in my head.
It can be hard to open up about mental illness to people who just don’t seem to get it, no matter how well-intentioned they may be or how hard they may try. Solitary journalling is a way of opening up, but there isn’t any reciprocity to go along with that. Blogging combines elements of both journalling and opening up to others. It allows the writer to put the words together on their own time and in their own space, and then publish it for fellow bloggers to interact with. The mental health blogging community reading the post is much less likely to come up with the well-meaning but way off the mark comments that seem to come all too often from people “in real life.” “Chin up” is a particular un-favorite of mine.
Community was the theme that emerged the most in the blogging survey. That included being able to relate to others, feeling accepted and validated, and a feeling of not being alone. My own depression has been profoundly isolating. I pushed many people away, and there are only a hardy few that remain “in real life”. In the blogging community, though, I have a thriving web of connections. This includes people who just “get it” because they’ve been through similar experiences themselves. These are also people that don’t expect anything from me other than a genuine interaction.
A theme that came up less often in the survey was having a positive way to spend time, which also allowed for a sense of accomplishment. For me, this has been huge. I haven’t been able to work much because of my illness, and what I am able to do is a far cry from the more meaningful nursing work I did when my illness wasn’t so entrenched. Now I have something a lot more productive to do than watching Netflix.
What was clear to me from the survey responses as well as my own experience is that that mental health blogging is far more than just a hobby. It makes peer support accessible on a much wider basis, and it’s worth considering for anyone living with a mental illness as part of a well-rounded self-management plan.