Written by Kris Beard
I was asked to write a guest entry for Kendra. When I asked her what she would like me to write about my experiences as a mental health advocate and blogger. Since I am sure most of you don’t know me, let me introduce myself first. My name is Kris and I wear many hats. I am a wife to L, mom to two little girls, full-time online community moderator (also known as glorified janitor of the interwebs 😉 ) and more recently blogger and blossoming mental health advocate.
Over the past years I had tried numerous times to start blogging. Usually when L was starting to do worse is when I would start using my blog as an outlet to share my thoughts and feelings. When he started doing better though is when I would start slacking and then stop. L was diagnosed in August 2007 with bipolar disorder and then a year or so later with PTSD as well. Since his original diagnosis he has been hospitalized 5 times with the last inpatient treatment being in December 2008. So far so good. We had a few more ER visits and emergency visits with his doctors but no hospitalizations since.
I am not sure what is keeping me going this time around but since I started blogging again on 3/11 I have blogged every day. Maybe it was that originally it was just a question of survival for me. A way to get out the things I couldn’t talk to my husband about. In a way my blogging still gives me just that but it is much more this time. I tend to be someone that keeps things on the inside until I cannot take anymore and I ‘explode’. Exploding is not an option though when dealing with a husband who has bipolar disorder and when you have two little kids that depend on you to take care of them. So blogging gives me an outlet and a constructive way to deal with all the stress in my life.
When I started blogging again in March I also used twitter and facebook to get out word about my blog and I have been surprised by the wonderful response I have gotten both online AND offline. The question of what to share and what not to share has not been a conscious one so far. I try to be as authentic and as honest as I can in order to be true to my own feelings but also to lend my voice to that one reader that might be struggling with similar issue but for whatever reason is unable to use their own voice at this point. I want people to know that they are not alone. That others are going through the same struggles and that it is okay (and normal) to feel these things.
I have noticed that the more open I am (like my recent post about my worries for our girls and what effect my husband’s illness will have on them) tend to be the ones that receive the biggest feedback. I think every blogger needs to find their own comfort zone and find out how much transparency they want. Both anonymity and openness have their place and time. While consciously I have not made any decisions about what to talk about and what to leave out, I know that there ARE others things I could write about that I have not touched yet. But to me this is a journey that I am taking one day at a time. I don’t know yet where tomorrow will take me but I am willing to follow it wherever it might lead me. I have met some wonderful people online thanks to my blog and my overall engagement in social media.
I think if we want to help dispel the stigma attached to mental illness we need to be as true to ourselves as we can be. We want others to share their stories and the best way to do that is to start by sharing our own stories. Every story, no matter how small, is a building blog in our attempt to raise awareness.
Kristina Beard currently blogs at Our Journey Through Life and can be found on Twitter @GermanInAlabama. She listens to a variety of names: Kris, Tina, Kristina, mommy, Germanchick (this a nickname I got when I lived in MN as an exchange student and it stuck), THE German… As you might have guessed from the nickname, yes, she is German born and raised and via Guam and WA now call Alabama my home. Please check out her blog and especially read her post on why she does what she does as a blogger and Mental Health advocate.
Thank you Kris for sharing with all of us. I think it is VERY important to talk and share our voices and our individual stories with Mental Health and am honored to have met Kris and have her share a little about who she is.