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Sandra Dean – Registered Member

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How Twitter works for me as an author, social abuse, mental illness stigma and is social networking and impulsivity a good combination?

Earlier this year (February 2012) I joined Twitter and, and shortly after, facebook. I was finishing the editing of my memoir at the time, and I wanted three things from Twitter.

Firstly, I wanted to be able to show my book to people who I thought it could help (because I self published I don’t have any giant publisher or agents help with publicity).

Secondly, I was in awe of the idea that I could connect with people or organisations who could enhance my knowledge in the fields of mental illness, stigma or orang-utan campaigns. How wonderful to be able to select news of my own choice – to follow or not to follow just as I wanted.

Thirdly, I could campaign freely, to an interested audience (my followers) about mental illness stigma or Orang-utan/unsustainable palm oil production issues – two subjects close to my heart.

And, as a bonus, I had an inkling inside that I might be able to show some support to others in need and share my experiences and wisdom to offer positivity and inspiration to those experiencing mental illness as I have.

I have suffered during my life, with Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, OCD and anxiety issues. I have written my life story, warts n all, in the hope that my recovery at the end would help other sufferers see that there is hope, there are ways to feel better and that suicide or self harm is not the answer out of the sometimes out of control, confusing or black moments in life.

I got through my journey on my own, without social networks or forums. Mainly, I didn’t want to talk to anyone else about my problems, I wanted to work on them myself, but also because I didn’t want my undesireable personality traits being played out to people I have never met. I couldn’t trust myself is basically what I am saying. I was confused, angry, upset, depressed – far too unstable to be able to guarantee to be ‘social’.

Back to Twitter this year… I began to follow a varied group of people and organisations and in return I was followed by a group just as mixed. Tens turned to hundreds, until I got my golden 1000 followers!

I made friends, I tried to help people who were suffering, I tried to inspire, to portray my experiences to others so that they could see that there is hope.

I also promoted my book by way of tweets and links to my book on Amazon. Many of these were kindly retweeted by my followers, for which I am so very grateful. There were many others I didn’t chat to, as it were – the follow was about reading what they had to say or articles they linked to rather than building a personal relationship. And with some, well, we just helped each other out. At the end of the day it is hard to keep up with too many people for me on Twitter and I am easily confused! LOL

It was all going swimmingly. Then I saw a long stream of abusive tweets from a patient in a psychiatric hospital, saying awful things about their fellow inpatients. This upset me. They were sent to hundreds of thousands of people (their followers) and if that isn’t promoting stigma I don’t know what is. Yet they portrayed themselves stigma and mental illness advisor!!! The words used were totally unacceptable, labelling mentally ill inpatients with terrible descriptions. I very much understand how frightening and upsetting it could be to arrive in a psychiatric hospital at first where everything is alien and controlled. I can see how that could enhance a person’s negative feelings. However, I would say being impulsive and telling Twitterland that people in there are this and that (I will not repeat on my own website as it’s too upsetting) is unacceptable. If one is disturbed, then one should not go to Twitter – call family, friends or speak to a nurse even, but please do not outburst on Twitter.

I will not see stigma and say nothing. I fight for the eradication of stigma, so I will not sit quiet and watch, I am the type of passionate person who will do or say something – on behalf of mentally ill people who cannot speak for themselves (usually due to stigma). I can do that now since sharing my own stories, because I decided enough is enough and went to my local newspapers and women’s magazines to get my story out there. To protect my mum and family, since I wanted to write my book with ‘everything’ in it, I now use a pseudonym, and that is due also to stigma – something I do not want my mum to experience any more of due to writing my life story.

I have suffered stigma through my mum’s schizophrenia from my childhood, and also my own illnesses. On top of a sometimes terrifying illness, a person needs support not a slagging off! Stigma is NOT sociable – do not do it on social networks, it makes you look bad and is very unhelpful.

Yesterday, I got a stream of abusive tweets from two ‘friends’ on twitter accusing me of unfollowing and blocking one of them – which simply was not true. Twitter has a glitch (as many people will find out when they use it for a while) whereby an account can unfollow or follow people automatically without the users knowledge. I have had it happen to me many times, and it is frustrating, but I guess technology isn’t always fail-safe.

It is great to share stories and make friends with fellow tweeters, ask for opinions even, and I have seen some lovely support going on to those in need, but when mental illness comes out in the form of abuse, is twitter or other social networks really the acceptable place for it? Of course ‘social’ should mean being nice but what about in this case?

I would urge anyone who is emotionally unstable, and perhaps prone to outbursts of abuse, anger or upset, that they step away from the computer, IPAD, Iphone, whatever they use, and to breathe. Use distraction or any of the other helpful skills. I have written an article on some of these CLICK HERE  Or even use direct messaging to have their argument out, BUT please NOT in public on Twitter for everyone to see. It is distasteful and upsetting to see it.

Having been a very aggressive, angry, resentful, needy person in some of my past, I totally understand, and have empathy for, people going through the same or similar things as I have, and I understand how impulsive Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) sufferers can be, but these impulses should not be played out on a social network – abuse does not belong on a social network and I will not accept it towards myself.

I understand that someone ‘unfollowing’ might make a BPD sufferer feel abandoned, because ‘fear of abandonment’ is the root of the issue, but crumbs, it’s just Twitter – no-one really knows each other, no-ones met each other, it’s just a place where people can connect with people or not – they have a choice. Although I hadn’t unfollowed or blocked anyone on this occasion, I do not expect abuse in the future because I want to unfollow someone – that is a step too far in my mind.

At first I was so upset to be called such awful names not fit for any social network, (this is on top of my brother telling me he has a massive tumor in his head and various other adversities happening in my life) I decided to end my twittering career (LOL that’s what if feels like when I am on there so much sometimes!) but then I decided that I had worked hard to get my account as I wanted it, and the followers/people I followed sharing stuff I wanted to read. So, I decided to give it another go. But, this time, I shall steer clear of relationships that get too close with anyone. Keeping it more professional would be best for me. My ex said to me the other day that I appear to care more about people on Twitter than in my own life, so it is time for a change.  And so I rejoin Twitter 🙂

It wasn’t the first time – I had been publicly tweeted and told off for upsetting someone because I unfollowed them, which in that case I had, but never blocked.  I am sorry but I, and everyone on twitter is free to follow, unfollow or block as they please.  I am no different.  I am also not a Twitter punch bag.  I would urge people to concentrate on their real lives and problems and not get upset by who is or is not following them.  I say this with compassion though, as I know how destructive it can feel for some.  It is easy to try to support, care for, or get angry with people we don’t know and I see all of that going on.

Just to make things clear, I have no problem with people disagreeing or debating, that is, in my mind, social because we cannot all have the same opinions, but my issue in this article is ‘direct abuse’ and the use of ‘foulest swear words to describe others.  I feel that Twitter and facebook can be a marvellous place for mental illness sufferers to share, chat and seek support, and I wholeheartedly feel it is a useful tool for that purpose so sufferers feel less alone with their problems.

Thank you for reading!

Feel free to comment! I would love to hear what you have to say – just don’t abuse me 🙂

Take care,

Amanda 🙂


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