What is the arena exactly? The arena has two alternate meanings.. One-the arena is a public place. Two- the arena is the place where people with mental health difficulties gather.
Usually one meaning applies or the other…but in my case, currently both apply.
I live with mental health difficulties (as do many) AND I am increasingly going public on this (as do few).
The phrase ‘in the arena’ came from something that was shared recently in my Facebook feed, written by Brene Brown.
This is the quote.
This struck a chord with me immediately.
Lately I feel very much in the arena…one that is becoming increasingly more exposed to public scrutiny.
That follows on from choices I’ve made and am still making- that are creating this reality out there in the arena. I am certainly not complaining about it, because I want more exposure. I want more people to know my name and my story. This is part of a concerted effort by me, and I could choose to opt out any minute if I wanted.
I could delete my blog, deactivate all other social media, and choose never to write or publish anything ever again…then I would be anonymous and largely invisible in the world again.
But I choose to continue…because I have a bigger purpose and a distinct agenda.
Regular blog readers will have a pretty good idea of my vision and purpose by now-given the things I write about.
My ‘choice’ is to present myself as I am…with no masks, subterfuge or inauthentic personas.
My desire is therefore to present a realistic portrait of what life with mental health problems is actually like.
In writing on a blog-people can go one of two ways. You can either use blogging as an opportunity to get metaphorically naked, and figure out your authentic identity. Or you can create a blog persona. Essentially I guess you can be whoever you want to be on a blog, as long as you keep that pretence up for long enough. People can blog anonymously if they wish with no names or pictures or geographical identifiers present. Then you can be someone else and wait for the likes and comments to roll in…or you can be yourself-the naked version who just blogs as they think and feel without being affected by feedback or the creation of anything new, besides yourself.
Disclaimer. I present these two alternates in black and white ways…to make my point, not to say all bloggers fit into one or the other camp with no exceptions. Don’t shout at me please.
I write like I have not a care in the world about feedback. ‘I was not made to be subtle’ represents marmite blog style as you’ll see in my gravatar….but affected I still am.
I’m only human after all.
Not many people are not affected at all by social feedback. We all are. Maybe that diminishes over time as we age and become more mature and able to handle life’s ups and downs….However I’m sure most of us are grateful of positive complimentary feedback, and stung by criticism, or even indifference (which can in some cases be worse, or just as bad as criticism).
Given the choice we’d usually rather be praised and supported than dismissed or confronted. That’s basic human nature. We’re pack animals. It’s far easier to be in the herd than out of it.
Many people avoid feedback by stepping well away from any arena where they may be judged.
People may avoid applying for jobs (because they don’t want to have their CV rejected, or the risk of flunking the interview).
Stay out of the arena.
People may avoid dating. (To avoid the possibility of not being asked out on that second date, or some other rejection).
Stay out of the arena.
A child may avoid putting their hand up in school to answer a maths sum (in case they get the answer wrong and attract a shaking head from a teacher or smirks from your peers).
Stay out of the arena.
In my case staying out of the arena would be……
NOT blogging openly about my mental health on SummerSHINES
NOT sending blog submissions to national charities to be shared on their public campaigns
NOT emailing said mental health charity speculative self-promotive emails saying it’s your dream to work for them
NOT writing guest posts for two websites where you’ve been asked to contribute an article
NOT agreeing to work with local charity on crowd fundraising campaign for my region
NOT capitalising on RED January opportunity to post on Facebook page about mental health issues and suicide and childhood abuse to destigmatise open sharing of sensitive issues
NOT writing the two books I’ve started writing
NOT sending documentary proposal to a large national TV channel
NOT joining digital marketing social media group and making posts on there about my aspirations
There are many other things I could add to this list…but the point is it am making deliberate choices here at all times to stay IN the arena.
Which means I’ll attract both praise and respect AND potential rejection and criticism.
I have to learn to deal with both.
I’m in the arena to publicly talk about my mental health and abuse story to as many people who are interested to hear it.
That desire isn’t going to float away.
Since my blog for Mind went live on Friday I have felt heightened anxiety…not about anything in particular…just generalised anxiety and a feeling of being on edge and a little nervous.
Maybe subconsciously I am worried about negative feedback…but I haven’t had any…and don’t imagine anyone will write anything nasty…so I’m not worrying on any particular conscious level.
What generates the anxiety I guess is simply being in the arena in the first place…The only time I’ve had this much public exposure before was when my mental health selfie vlog for Mind went live. I have just checked the YouTube stats on that for the first time in ages….
It has now had 1.9k views! 1.9k people watched me sat on the edge of my bed talking about how I’d had an awful day at therapy. Personally I can’t watch it myself as I’m too self critical…but that is a lot of exposure for me. I am definitely in the arena here and this video won’t be deleted by Mind. It’s there to stay-as are all the things you send to Mind. You can’t get spooked and delete it yourself. So I have to stay in the arena.
You can watch it here if you want. I won’t be joining you though eek! 😂
And my blog post from Friday so far has got 576 likes.
A typical blog post on SummerSHINES gets maybe 60 views…so this is a lot more exposure for me, and definitely puts me well and truly IN the arena.
I feel proud that 576 people read and liked my blog post and 1.9k people watched my mental health selfie vlog on recovery. But it’s still a bit EEK! It’s weird. No-one tells you how to be relaxed about it. No one tells you what exposure feels like. No-one tells you how you can just be chilled about it. I know my anxiety will calm down soon. The exposure is mainly for the first week or so then the attention calms down as most people who are going to see it have already seen it by then.
My current generalised anxiety is probably just my effort to adapt to the exposure of being in a more public arena.
576 people know I attempted suicide. 1966 people know that on that day I did the vlog that I cried my eyes out in the therapy room thinking I’d always be in pain.
If anyone wants to diss me for sharing that kind of personal info…this is what I’ll think off for comfort purposes.