I am excited that my website is finally taking shape and I feel a rush of enthusiasm as soon as I start writing, but I feel like I have been slightly hesitant about adding more content or other features. It’s only been a week and I have the rest of my life to add content. No biggie.
I feel great because I know in the last couple of days I have been keeping busy, training hard and have had a lot of fun and perhaps far too much relaxation. I’m glad to be writing this without a hangover but I am feeling very lethargic from too many naps.
Raving, Regret and Vulnerability: An Anonymity Dilemma
I suppose I have been hesitant about adding content to my website because I am anxious of how it will be perceived, but as I have learned on my counselling courses; if I am feeling like shit and feeling all these restrictive emotions, I may as well put them to good use and write about them.
One of my biggest concerns about content is deciding whether I want to be anonymous or not, or if I wanted to write using a pen name.
I realise that as I become closer and closer into becoming a counsellor, even though this is over two years away, I will have to put more care into what I am writing about and what am I sharing. The main aspects of a lot of the jobs I am interested in involve maintaining a client’s confidentiality.
Maintaining confidentiality means I cannot discuss anything on here a client has trusted to share with me. The content I share is not intended to go down that route- not at all. But this does make me think about how I approach the other relationships I have with my friends, family and acquaintances. What can I really share? Am I really comfortable with myself if I shared something on the internet which a friend wanted to keep private, even if I felt like it could really benefit others?
My concerns make me think back to a time I was in an underground rave in Vauxhall in my first year of university. I was surrounded by people in togas and I was flailing around in my homemade crown of grapes. After hours of dancing my friends and I were slumped in a corner laying on blankets the hosts had provided us, surrounded by vibrant, ancient-Greek style tapestries. As usual the drunken version of me wanted to talk nonsense to anybody and I met this tiny curly-haired raver. I could clearly see this was affecting her night out. In a place filled with neon imagery, strobe lights and laughter she couldn’t have been stuck in a darker place.
She told me about the issues she was having at home which were very similar to what my girlfriend at the time was coming to terms with. I informed her I had no idea what I was on about, and that I was off my nut, but I was able to tell her how my girlfriend discovered and managed her situation. The way I dealt with this seemed to have a positive effect on her and as far as I could tell she seemed to have a much better time after our conversation.
A few days of recovery later I was chatting to my girlfriend about my night out. I felt pretty good about being helpful to the curly haired raver so I brought it up during our coffee. I did not expect my girlfriend to lose her temper as much as she did. She explained how she felt betrayed and how she felt shocked at how I could tell a random stranger about the things she had told me in confidence. She was so furious I expected her coffee to be flung towards my face. She did not care about my good intentions; to her they did not matter as much as keeping her secrets. This story taught me a lot about breaking confidentiality before I was formally introduced to it. I had always been good at keeping information to myself until that night.
My mind-set shifts all the time about anonymity as a writer. Within the website I feel like if I refer to someone in my life it’s not like I have to name them or give out any of their personal information. I could make up some fake names or I could do what I have been doing and keep up being a pronoun bandit. I could go at great lengths to make sure that nobody I know reads any of this but I know someone would find it eventually. As I write this its already pretty obvious for someone I know to work out who is behind this website.
I think it takes a lot for me, or for any other writer in a similar position, to choose not to be anonymous or to choose not to use a pen name. I think there are several aspects to this thinking which I feel strongly relate to the nature of the counselling process. In all honesty I think these aspects are why I have been tip-toeing about adding content and weighing up my final decision about anonymity.
As I write these journals, on a platform available to anyone, I feel very similar to how I felt as a client seeing a counsellor. The weight of vulnerability is significant when I am writing and I feel like it will only get heavier as I truly get into the meat of my content. I am vulnerable to anyone’s insight and comments (in all honesty I will reach a significant landmark someone threatens me online).
I think this vulnerability is heavily related to the amount of trust I have for people reading journals about such a challenging subject. I feel better about trusting the unknown reader by assuming anyone reading pieces about mental health (I bet you’re awesome at parties) can emphasise with someone writing about mental health.
Despite this vulnerability I feel like there are important benefits to being seen as the human behind the words I write.
People can emphasise with and understand fictional characters and the experiences they go through. I think sometimes we enjoy some stories, films, and other content because there is the comfort zone if knowing that it didn’t really happen. If you think back to your childhood you may have been told this. You may have also been told that the media you absorbed was exaggerated for extra effect, or that the story in question is mythical, or a straight up lie.
We learn a lot from and are inspired by very real and very fictional people and characters, and I personally feel that if I were to present myself as a very real person I would be able to connect more with my audience.
I think if there is an identification that the experiences that are talked about on this website are real; a more unique connection can be made between me and you. Hopefully you can realise that the experiences that are shared have happened or are happening. The emotions and stories that happened are real and have been experienced by myself, as a genuine human being, and other real people.
So what am I going to do? I don’t know yet. The answer will reveal itself in the future, and in all honesty I am very aware I am copping out of a decision by choosing to finish this journal in this way. Oh well, it’s my mental playground.
I really got fired up writing about my vulnerability as a lot of emotions came up surrounding my first experiences of counselling- frustration really fires me in any activity. I found myself going on tangents because of this, but this has given me plenty of content for my next journal. I was stupid to put this off, this felt good.