It’s no secret that the last 2 months have been… interesting? emotional? demanding? The old me would have said down right crappy. But that was before I had to worry about something we now call “personal brand”.
Let’s take a step back for a second. It’s not like I woke up on the wrong side of the bed one day and had a couple crappy days… It all started at the end of June when I was plagued with some serious neurological issues. There were hospital stays, CT scans, blood tests, neuro evaluations, an MRI and lots of doctor visits. For the first time in a long time I showed a not so happy side, and in my defense, I was scared out of my mind… It’s not every day you wake up with one whole side of your body feeling numb and hear things like “I think it could be X, but can’t give you the meds for that until after the MRI because it could cause a brain bleed”. I hope I never hear those words again! Almost everyone was very supportive. People offered to come to my house and clean, look after @kid_lotus or deliver meals, honestly I was overwhelmed. The kindness was refreshing. But one person DM’ed me and said I sounded like a hypochondriac and why was I “complaining” so much in public, going so far as saying “all I had were headaches anyway”.
As we tend to do, I listened to the negative comment and reverted to my shiny happy ways, all the while still feeling scared (I didn’t get the results from the MRI until much later and the symptoms eventually mostly subsided, and for now any serious outcomes have been ruled out).
Less than two weeks after my initial neurological episode I was given information that would force me to cancel my wedding. Fresh off the “you complain too much” comment and quite frankly, completely terrified of the reaction I might receive (I even briefly considered going through with the wedding to save myself the humiliation of having to tell everyone I wasn’t getting married), I handled that with minimal talk about it and once again reverted to my shiny happy self.
Next, 3 days before my 2 weeks vacation with @kid_lotus began, a very close friend had a major psychological breakdown. Police forces from 2 cities were called as well as other law enforcement entities, cops came to my office to take statements and it took a full day to locate my friend. Once found, this person was brought to a hospital until he could be committed to a mental hospital where he stayed for about 3 weeks. His stay there was a roller coaster ride at best with very little stability and watching him go through this experience was heart wrenching at best. As we were very close friends and his relationship with his family isn’t great, I ended up being the hub for all the information between friends/family /doctors. This continued while was on vacation – a cruise which having been booked prior to our engagement, but taking place just before the wedding was meant to be my honeymoon… I came back from my vacation just as tired as when I left, emotionally & psychologically drained. And yet – I tried to stay upbeat, and mostly succeeded.
And then, Trey Pennington took his own life. Trey was a well known social media personality. Liked, respected, prolific… His suicide touched the social media world and many have written about how they were affected and of their fond memories of Trey. How could someone with 111,301 followers not find the words to ask for help? And I thought of my friend (who at the time of Trey’s suicide was still in a locked psych ward) why had he not been able to ask for help? And then I thought of my own struggle of the past few weeks and how I had felt the need to not “complain” or open up and talk about how I was having a hard time dealing with everything that had just happened in the last few weeks… How I had kept my feelings under wraps for the sake of appearances. For the sake of my “personal brand”.
I wanted to do something about this, but I wasn’t sure what yet – and I wasn’t ready yet (and actually – I still haven’t quite figured out what to do or how – have any ideas?).
And then the morning of the #140ConfOnt (which, incidentally, I wasn’t going to attend) I got a call from my friend’s mom, which I missed so it went to voicemail. “Call me right away, this is an emergency.” My heart sank. My friend had been released on Monday and had had a rough first night home. During the day Tuesday a few of us had talked to him throughout the day, but after Tuesday evening no one had heard from him. Wednesday morning a friend found him in his apartment, with very weak vitals after he had ingested all his meds… (he is now fine and once again in a locked psych ward, where they will once again attempt to help him). After speaking with his mom to get this unfortunate update, I decided to attend the #140ConfOnt. If nothing else, I figured all the hugging I had been hearing about would be worth the trip…
But now I was starting to feel like, more than ever, I needed to be able to rely on my tweeps, to open and connect and receive support from others who might be able to relate and that I needed to be human more than I needed to be a brand.
And this is where things come full circle….
I didn’t know why I had taken to twitter in the first place when I was faced with neurological issues, or rather I didn’t have a name for it… But after #140ConfOnt – and thanks to Lara Galloway (@mombizcoach – www.mombizacademy.com) I know it was the comfort of tapping into the “me too” community. The comfort of knowing others had gone through the same thing and lived to tell the tale and that they knew what I was going through and how scared I might be. (and side note: It is astounding the number of people with neurological issues in Ottawa and how long the waits are for MRIs…) And the “me too” community can apply to so many more things than health issues. I am sure lot of you have seen the #zombiemoms hashtag and if you’re unluck and suffer from insomnia, you know there are many of us who do and we all commiserate together…
And then came the talk from Chris Eh Young (@chris_eh_young – www.b2cy.com). His talk was very honest and warned about the dangers of social media and of our “public personalities” and how we are quick to share and celebrate successes but sometimes shy away from asking for help, or talking about our struggles. How we try and attain goals that have seen others achieve, without really asking ourselves if they are right for us, or outright comparing ourselves to others, while trying to be someone we’re not…
Scott Stratten touched on the dangers of setting ourselves up for unrealistic expectations. He shared how someone tweeted a question to him and after not receiving an answer four hours later, the person called him a fraud because he wasn’t @ replying as he advocates in his book. Of course this person failed to realize that he had sent these tweets from a different time zone, and that Scott would have more likely than not been sleeping in the time frame he sent the tweets. When did it become ok for other people to have such high expectations of us and to so blatantly judge?
Back to Chris, who wrote about the face of public here as well.
So we succeed in public.
Then we suffer in solitude.
Why is that? And why is it that in a world that is so connected, all the time, some suffer so much that they are driven to take their own lives. And more importantly, what can we do so that this no longer happens?
So next time you ask how I am doing, I may try a new approach: the truth, because everybody hurts, sometimes. And I hope that when I do, you will remember that I am a human – not just a “personal brand”.