Why Writing About Your Struggles Online Can Get Dangerous

Gillian Sisley

My mental health may be suffering in my pursuit for growth through online writing.


Photo by Skylar Sahakian on Unsplash

There are times when my online writing experience feels like the whimsical tea party from Alice in Wonderland.

And that has led me to the conclusion that there is a rabbit-hole-effect with writing about trauma online.

When I first started writing every day online, as of last month, it was incredibly transformative.

I found healing, I found closure. It was amazing.

I was being shared in topics like equality and mental health, and for that reason, I felt validated and was on a huge high!

And then I noticed that my distribution started to decrease after a few weeks.

I’d spent the first couple weeks spewing my guts about my mental health and sexual assault. Once I got that out of my system, I was writing about happier things.

And I watched, to my great dismay, as the happy pieces ceased to be shared time and time and time again.

Like a complex mathematical equation (which is really unfair, because I dropped out of grade 12 math), I tried to solve the “why am I not being shared?” dilemma.

So, combine that with the pressure of wanting to see that monthly payout grow, I feel I’m being pressured to venture back into my most vulnerable, darkest places.

But… do I have to keep going there?

Call me crazy, but I don’t like that place.

So is writing regularly about my trauma and mental illness synonymous with playing really depressing music when I’m sad, for the sole purpose of making me feel sadder?

Where’s the line between healthy processing and delving so far into the trauma that I’m drowning myself?

Successful engagement is about the inherent quality of a unique experience.

I have unique perspectives.

I’ve been saving myself for marriage, and my first boyfriend of over a year tried to rape me at 19 when I wouldn’t willingly give it up.

I now live with general anxiety and episodes of paranoia from the trauma of that assault. It affects my everyday life.

I’m also running my own business, as a solopreneur, with general mental illness that is actively trying to sabotage my business from the inside-out on a constant basis.

So, yes, I have unique perspectives in these categories.

But I hate that the topics my stats are showing me to be an expert in are all so damn dark and depressing. As an optimist, I’m struggling with this reality.

I hate that, in my pursuit to see my online numbers grow, I feel at times like I’m subjecting myself to a form of cruel mental torture.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Do it for popularity?

Remember when Vine was a big hit (RIP endlessly entertaining 6-second dog videos), and there was a trend of the cameraman singing, “Do it for the Vine", while the subject replies, “Nah.”?

Then on the third exchange, the subject does “the thing" for the vine and usually embarrasses/hurts themselves.

Am I standing at that exact same crossroads? (RIP me?)

My stats are saying, “Do it for the shares.”

My optimism and mental health are saying, “Nah.”

But are my greed and ego going to be the ones to convince me to do it?

And will I get hurt if I do?

So that begs the question — am I in this for the wrong reasons?

Is this healthy? Or am I just in it for ego and greed?

I’ll be fully transparent — I want to make money through online writing. I would love to supplement some of my business’ income with cash flow from this platform.

Okay, okay, hold your collective gasp — I know plenty of you are interested in making money, too! You’re not fooling me.

But am I hurting myself and my progress by stepping back into that dark room where I process and accept my trauma each time I enter it?

I understand that this article is comprised of a lot of questions — please know that this is not me trying to frustrate you as the reader — I’m new to this whole “embracing the reality of my mental illness and learning to live and cope with it” thing, so I’m trying to navigate this entirely new territory right now.

My mind wants to understand the firm guidelines of how this all works.

A pursuit that is destined to fail.

Because I already know that mental illness does not subscribe to any ground rules or boundaries — it just does whatever the hell it wants, and we have to figure out how to reign in the chaos.

My biggest passion in life is writing — it always has been.

I’m increasingly concerned that it is also one of my weaknesses in this case.

It’s completely possible that in my passion and pursuit to write better and better content, and increase the quality of my writing, that I could get lost in the very dangerous rabbit-hole of enabling my mental illness to take control of my life.

Am I the only one terrified by this propect while writing online?

But wait, back up a second.

OR is this the age-old tale of my mental illness trying to convince me that a good activity of processing my trauma is actually bad, and so it’s trying to get me to stop?

So… am I wrong? Is this actually good for me?

The thing I can be certain about is none of this experience of writing about my trauma or mental illness online is black and white.

It’s a big ol' cocktail made up of healthy processing, greed, passionate writing, ego, finding closure, and an obsession with stats.

Like most things in life, the answer to this question isn’t simple — it’s incredibly complex. And I may never get an answer to any of the questions in this article.

As scary as that reality is, there’s a beauty in it, too. I’m okay with not having everything figured out. It makes life a little more interesting, in my opinion.

And in my mind, the only way I’m going to find any semblance of an answer is to lean into that dark room and start feeling things out.

I’ll explore and feel my way around, testing the waters, if you will.

And I’ll keep the door open, just in case, so that the light on the other side of the door shows me where the exit is.

And if the darkest pieces of me slam the door so that it’s pitch black and I can’t find my way around anymore?

Well… I’ll bring a flashlight just to be safe.

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