To be Anonymous or Not…


Tonight I participated in the #hcsm chat over at Twitter. I love this chat. It’s full of passionate healthcare providers and patient advocates discussing the role of Social Media in Healthcare. It’s moderated via the account @HealthSocMed and lately by the wonderful @danamlewis.

The topic tonight debated the existence of anonymous doctors as well as patients within the Social Media world. Is an anonymous source authentic? Credible? In choosing to be anonymous, do we have to work harder to earn credibility? What is the motive for remaining anonymous? Can opening up about your condition as a patient hurt you when you seek employment? Why would a patient choose to not be anonymous?

As a patient who has chosen to be authentic in my presence online, I am here to tell you I do not regret the decision at all. My audacity in revealing my identity from the beginning has emboldened other mothers and families. It’s provided an honest insight into my journey, given a face to Postpartum Mood Disorders. If I had chosen to remain anonymous, the results may have been the same but if, down the road, would everything I worked for be instantly discredited if it were discovered I had used a pseudonym? What if I had done so but had been honest about my reasons for doing so from the start? What then?

Sure, I risk a LOT by using my real identity. I risk future employers reading about my experience in a psych ward. I risk judgment. I risk labeling. I risk my identity. But it’s all worth it when my authentic boldness saves lives. When a mom knows I am REAL and have been through the hell she is experiencing. When a dad knows I understand where his wife is and can offer invaluable insight into her journey. When a sister seeks me out on Twitter because she’s at her wit’s end.

Authenticity is the biggest stigma-buster in the world.

Can you be authentic and anonymous?

YES.

Some of the most authentic journeys shared here at My Postpartum Voice were submitted by those who wished to remain anonymous. Anonymity lends an empowering shield when it comes to mental health patients. It allows us to speak up with such detail and courage we may otherwise shun if we were forced to stand on a stage with a spotlight trained upon us, knowing our words will be broadcast to thousands upon thousands, forever memorialized on the Internet.

My refusal to be anonymous has saved lives. My compassion, respect, and understanding of those who wish to remain anonymous has also saved lives.

Anonymity can be a good thing. Authenticity can be achieved within the realm of anonymity. Credibility – possibly, but you have to work for it as well as be prepared for future fall out if you’re not honest about your desire to be anonymous from the start.

When it comes down to it, we can only decide for ourselves how comfortable we are with letting our stories out of the bag. We can only decide if WE choose to be anonymous or fling our true identity into the ring.

I’m in the heart of the ring. I love it here and wouldn’t leave for the world.

What about you? Are you anonymous in sharing your story? Or have you also thrown yourself into the ring of authenticity?

Sticks and Stones will break my bones but Words…..


Who among us hasn’t heard this childhood chant?

I used to chant it at my brothers. At others on the playground as they attempted to say mean things to me.

Why do we say it when it is not true?

Words.

Words are more powerful than any stick, any stone.

I have scars on both knees from bicycle and running falls as a child. A couple of them still have dirt and rocks from New Jersey embedded deep under my skin because it was easier for the doctors to leave it in than to take it out. That gravel? That dirt? Has never bothered me a day in my life. Not one ache, not one infection, nothing.

But the chilling echo of the teasing I endured in elementary school because my family did not cough up the cash to belong to the local Yacht club? The teasing because our Green & White Dodge Ram Charger backfired whenever Mom drove us to school? The teasing I endured because my family did not own a Limo or a Porsche? Lingered in my heart and made it heavy. Achy.

The words written by a 10th Grade English teacher on a paper I had written about losing my Grandmother to ovarian cancer – the words which questioned whether I had really not had a chance to say goodbye or if I had just not taken the time to do so? Chilling. Enraging.

The words scribbled on all of my Creative Writing class assignments? Nearly impossible to read without invoking some sort of impassioned response. Sometimes the criticisms of my fellow classmates were even harder to read than the Professor’s words scrawled in blood red ink across every single line.

Words.

Words are the world in which we live these days. They surround us every day. At Twitter, at Facebook, on our cell phones as we text friends, read the news, browse the internet, read billboards, as celebrities attempt to use them to achieve fame.

In our lives, it is not only our actions of which we need to be mindful. It is our words as well. For our words may spurn another into action. Our words may speak to another in a way we are not even capable of fathoming. Our words – if chosen poorly – may even end a life.

If chosen wisely, with care, with love, with respect, our words may snatch that same life deep out of the pit in which it has wallowed. Our words, wisely and carefully chosen, may prove to be the helpline just one person has been seeking. Our words should always be love.

Sometimes this means tough love. Even then, our words should be chosen with respect. With earnest and honest warmth. Our words should always extend an olive branch into another person’s soul even if we do not agree with them. Even if all we want to do is tell them to go to hell. Seal your lips. Do not let such harsh words tumble forth from them. There are those among us who have – and they have gone on to regret those harsh words. Walk away. Breathe. Think. Reflect. Many times the anger you feel is not worth it. Many times the anger you feel is the other person’s Karma, but not yours.

Your words are your reputation, your heart, your very soul.

Recently, a well known Twitter account, @TheDailyLove, operated by Mastin Kipp, tweeted a message which set off a flurry of reaction, including a post at BlogHer by Morgan of @the818.

This tweet included the following words:

“Depression exists in selfish people. Step outside yourself, helps others [sic] & you will feel better!”

Martin has since posted a message of apology and deleted the Tweet. But the damage of his words will lurk forever on the Internet.

I left a comment at his post thanking him for his apology and acknowledging the courage it takes to own up to such an action.

Depression for me was anything but selfish. It was because of the intense expectation to be suddenly selfless, to suffer in the face of caring for others in an intense and unexpected environment that I fell from my white horse of dreamy motherhood into a slathering messy pit of despair. I had no clue what to do, I had no support, I struggled, sought help, was turned away. Here I was, hurting, doing everything right to try to improve my situation yet found myself shot down at every turn. No one tells you at the baby showers about the sleepless nights. No one gifts you a case of coffee. No one warns you that your butt and your couch will become one for three months. No one tells you about the weeks for which you’ll go without a shower. No one tells you about the maddening thoughts that may drift through your head or how the sleepless nights will make your mania that MUCH WORSE.

No one uses their words to tell you, in love, how damn hard motherhood will be for you.

No one tells you that once you fall off that white horse, it IS possible to get back on. Granted, you’ll be a wreck, the horse may have a busted hoof or two, but it won’t matter. Because you’ll be back on the horse dammit. Grass in between your teeth, mud stains on the side of your face, on your satin nightgown, but grin dammit. This is motherhood. You’re required to be happy. Right?

We are all in this together. All of us, all of humanity.

Without love, without mindful awareness of those who struggle beside us, we will be forever lost.

So I ask you. Fill your words with love.

If something angers you, ask why. Respond accordingly but for love’s sake, do not respond in anger. If you must respond in anger, be sure to use it to bring about positive change. Do not lose yourself to hate.

It is simply and utterly not worth it.

Social Media moves quickly. We read, we browse, we share. We often do not think before we type. Just as Social Media can damage a fragile person, it can also build a fragile person up. The reason I started #PPDChat at Twitter was to provide a safe space in which women and families could discuss their issues with others. To talk about Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders in a very public manner with no sense of shame as we chatted and created a warm community full of love, acceptance, yet free of hate, judgment and stigma. I am amazed on a weekly basis as to the level of participation and amount of sharing which goes on at #PPDChat. These mothers, fathers, friends, and loved ones openly share their challenges with each other. Often from private Twitter accounts, personal Twitter accounts, openly talking about the difficulties of motherhood and the complications a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder bring into that equation. I love my #PPDChat family. I do not think any of them selfish. I do not think any of them as wanting to suffer. But what I have seen is that knowing they can reach out to others, to be VALUED by others and validated by others has helped them immensely. That said, many are also involved in additional Professional care.

Depression is not selfish.

Depression is helped by reaching out to others.

But as we reach out to others, we must be aware of our own fragile states. We must know when to say no, when to take care of ourselves and be okay with not helping others. If we fail to first help ourselves, we are unable to help others. And yes, THAT is selfish. But it is necessary for us to be selfish in order to improve the help we provide to those around us.

Above all else, we must first mother ourselves.

What will YOU do to mother yourself today? How will you show the world love? How will you be hope? How will you be the light at the end of the tunnel for someone else?

Do not blow out their candle. Ignite their candle. Empower them with words of love chosen warmly, wisely, and carefully.

YOU have it within you to be the spark. Pass it on.

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