In my research interviews the notion of feeling connected, and finding ‘my tribe’ has been a common theme. I’m very grateful to Trish Hurtubise, founder and co-editor of the web site Mental Health Talk, for sharing her experiences of social media in this guest post.
A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (Seth Godin)
I didn’t talk about my experience with psychosis. It was the one part of my mental health history I judged so harshly I projected my stigma onto others.
When I came to realize this, I did what anyone would do in my position and started a blog. I wanted to ‘come out’ about psychosis to the blogsphere.
The myth about starting a blog debunked
I added my account on WordPress and published a few posts. Then I waited. And I waited some more.
I was perplexed. I truly believed if you started a blog, people would find you and comment.
‘If you build it, they will come’ rung in my head.
Then I learned you actually have to let people know you’re blogging whether it is by word of mouth, optimizing for search engines, guest blogging, becoming part of the madosphere communities, promoting via social media – or all of the above.
I didn’t revamp my approach by doing all of this in the beginning, but I learned a little bit about search engine optimization and the importance of having your own URL. So I registered the domain mentalhealthtalk.info and named the blog Mental Health Talk.
Then I decided if I was going to go this far, I was going to tell my friends and family about my blog. Suddenly the number of my subscribers jumped from 0 to 16 in 2 weeks. And I was getting comments! I even went public on my personal Facebook page and shared my posts. I also added a Twitter account and started to learn Twitter.
Ready to give up — so soon?
I had committed to a publishing schedule of once a week and with every post I wanted to draw a cartoon. Well after 6 weeks of meeting my schedule, I was burnt. It felt like I was living and breathing my blog and not taking any time for self-care. Plus the stress of putting myself “out there” and the resulting roller coaster of anxiety was wearing me down.
I came to a crossroads; I was determined to meet my schedule but I knew I couldn’t do it all myself.
I could bail out now—nobody would really notice, I thought.
I don’t remember what compelled me to keep going but I came up with the idea of having guest bloggers. I knew I would need a lot of them to make this work.
The next question was: where to find people who want to guest for me?
Stumbling upon my tribe
I started to search out blogs about mental health. I stumbled upon Thw Week in Mentalist (now found on Mentally Wealthy) and found it worked as a great resource for mental health blogs. Eventually I got used to asking people to guest and sometimes being rejected.
I would work with the guest blogger to support them through the process, and in turn, I would be honoured by having the opportunity to read their story first. I could always relate to at least one experience in their story and this made me feel less alone in my struggle.
One day I realized I had found my tribe in my guest bloggers, subscribers and commenters; people who were actually like me.
This was way better than group therapy.
I experience a floating sensation that at its core is related to anxiety. A few years ago I scoured the Internet to find information about what was going on with me. I think for the first time ever, the Almighty Google failed me.
I decided to write my own post about this experience and how I had come to accept it and adapt. I wrote the post in May 2011 and since then I have had almost 6,000 unique hits to that post, almost all from search engine traffic. The comments on the post are both rewarding and heartbreaking as people talk about how scared they feel and how good it is to find someone who experiences the same thing.
It is times like this one I recognize the impact of telling my story and being able to freely communicate it via social media.
And the take…
One day I received an email request from a guy who wanted to guest blog. I checked out his site and it was full of advertising. Red flags went up; on the surface it looked like this guy was trying to get traffic with farmed content. But something told me I should give him a chance. Thank god I did!
After emailing back and forth, I learned Jared had had almost the exact experience I had with mental illness — the trigger and the aftermath. I never thought I would find anyone who could come close to what I had been through and here he was, guest blogging for me upon his request. I felt instantly connected and relieved.
How social media can fulfill our need to survive
It’s through this journey I have discovered what I really wanted to do when I started my blog; to build a platform for people who experience mental health issues, to share their stories and wisdom with the intention of helping others to feel less alone.
As long as I can continue to offer this connection to this tribe I have found of courageous human beings, I will do it.
I feel very strongly it is needed.
When we are too vulnerable to interact face-to-face with those around us, social media is a viable option to feeling less alone. To be able to reach out and find a connection—day or night–when we so commonly feel disconnected by our disorder, is parallel to fulfilling our primal need for survival.
For we are social animals and need a group of people we can trust to understand and accept us, and not throw us to the lurking saber tooth tiger in the jungle beyond.
We need this tribe to feel protected and safe.
And that’s powerful stuff.
Trish Hurtubise is the founder and co-editor of the web site Mental Health Talk; an eclectic collection of stories infused with wisdom by people who experience mental health issues. Please stop by as it is Trish’s intention you leave the site feeling less alone and connected to a courageous tribe.