Oversharing on Twitter is Good for My Mental Health

A psychologist said so.

by Austin Williams
Dec 16 2016, 3:00pm

Image: Beatrix Boros / Stocksy

I like to keep a neat bedroom. If you think about it, your personal space is one of the few things you have complete control over, so it's important to me—except for whenever this one woman would come to town. Whenever she stayed with me, my room became a walk-in closet. Shoes and shirts and boots and pants would cover my floor. Her chargers and laptop and purse would litter my furniture, along with weird feminine accessories that I could never quite identify. Whenever she was around, my room looked like Carrie from Sex and the City just got home-invaded.

But I didn't mind, because as important as my personal space is to me, as important as control is to me, for a time, this woman remained paramount, because this woman was special. So much so, in fact, there was a stretch of time when I granted her complete control of the parts of myself that I value the most. I turned over control of my self-esteem, my faith in companionship, and unknowingly at the time, the already vulnerable state of my mental health. All I could do was hope she'd be responsible with those things.

She wasn't. That was the stupidest shit I've ever done.

So, obviously, I addressed her emotional negligence the only way a moron knows how to—I made the same mistake twice. I granted her control one last time. Via text, of all mediums, I offered her an ultimatum, because those always work.

Be clear, though—this text was fire. This text was beautiful. I want to someday write a romantic dramedy based on this text, starring all of white people's favorite actors. I drafted it while in bed, with her asleep next to me, and sent it as I left to go to the gym the next morning. As carefully and eloquently as I laid it out for her, though, the gist was: Get your shit together and love me, or literally get your shit together and leave my apartment before I get home today—because you're hurting me.

You could probably guess how that turned out. I got back to my apartment later that day, she was gone, and my room was clean. In that moment, I slipped into a feeling that I was familiar with, but was fortunate enough to have periodically escaped until now: crippling heartache, and what very much felt like depression.

The Tweets

Until now, I've always been hesitant to use the word "depression" when describing how I sometimes feel. I've sort of ignored my mental health my entire life—because, ya know, black people do that sometimes—so I've never sought out a diagnosis. Aside from the possibility that I might be clinically depressed, my biggest fear when it comes to seeking a diagnosis is the possibility that I might actually not be depressed at all. Claiming a struggle that isn't mine, a struggle that in itself has claimed so many lives, when all I am is melodramatic, would feel fraudulent and kind of embarrassing.

While I recognize the signs of depression in myself (reclusiveness, feelings of worthlessness, excessive sleeping, loss of appetite, etc.), I also realize none of these symptoms are persistent, and I'm generally a happy person—so a lot of things feel confusing right now, to say the least.

And as millennial as this sounds, I've been dealing with this confusion and this recent bout of alleged depression publicly on social media. I tweet about it. And not only that, but in these tweets, I sort of make fun of my own sadness, for everyone to see—and for some reason, it makes me feel better. That seems really odd, considering most people assume social media sometimes causes depression and anxiety.

I'm aware of the fact that I share my feelings with Twitter a little too much sometimes. But there's just something about it that brings me relief. I've been tweeting about this woman and my history of failed "situationships" for weeks now. Tweets like:

The Therapy

The reason I prefer venting on Twitter to seeing a therapist, I think, is because I don't have to explain anything to the internet. I have complete control over the conversation. Twitter doesn't ask me anything I'm not prepared to answer. I don't have to explain the hurt that comes with thinking I was a special piece of this person's life only to find out I was just another body to her, or the conflict in missing a woman who I also wish I never fucking met, or what it's like to mourn the loss of someone who killed off so much of my confidence.

Twitter gets this shit—this extremely embarrassing shit.

I feel like a therapist would silently judge me. If it turns out I'm not depressed, and I'm just grief-stricken, I can imagine my therapist thinking to his or herself, "this motherfucker wild dramatic, dog" (don't ask me why my hypothetical therapist sounds like DMX in my head).

I'd have to explain all of my humiliating triggers to my therapist. I'd have to reveal that the woman who broke my heart is from North Carolina, in order for my therapist to know why I'll forever be too sad to take my shirt off, twist it 'round my hand and spin it like a helicopter whenever that one Petey Pablo song comes on.

I'd have to admit that I get into bar fights now because I'm secretly threatened by the men I suspect she'd prefer over me. I'd have to explain that even though Blonde was incredible, I can no longer stand to hear that album after having had it on repeat during the first weekend we spent together.  

Luckily, relationship and sex therapist Rachel Klechevsky (who doesn't sound like DMX) was fairly easy to talk to during the one conversation we had. We pretty much only talked about the big stuff, like whether or not I'm actually depressed—and Twitter.

"It's hard to say intense heartbreak is indicative of depression," she says. "Everybody deals with heartbreak in different ways. You might be one of those fortunate people who feels things more deeply than others… I say fortunate because often those people connect to other people really well."

I understand that logic. Most days, I'm sure I'd even agree with it—but after this weird and exhaustingly emotional fallout, it's hard to recognize that heightened ability to "connect" right now. The woman who spurred all of this, my whiny tweets and all, used to pretend to be so woke she could appreciate a black man "comfortable" enough in his masculinity to be so forthright with his feelings. She tried her best, but ultimately, she was okay with me being expressive until it became clear that what I was expressing were feelings that are most often narrowly associated with women. Only bad shit happened from there.

In reaction to this, Klechevsky points out that I do, in fact, seem to "emote more honestly than most people do" and that, basically, some folks rock with it and some don't. While that's cool and all, I sometimes feel strange for emoting so honestly on Twitter, even if it makes me feel better. I ask her if Tweeting so emotionally is normal.

"Yes, it's normal. If it's normal for you to tweet about going to 7/11 to buy a diet coke, it's just as normal and makes just as much sense for you to tweet about negative experiences, if that's how you emote." I reveal that I've gotten to the point where I feel less vulnerable when I can tell you-know-who has been reading my tweets as opposed to when I fall into the trap of actually texting her.

"Oh, yeah. That makes a lot of sense," Klechevsky tells me. "You've empowered yourself through emotional expression. You feel less vulnerable because your emotions don't just belong to her anymore. Your emotions now belong to everyone who follows you. She's not the only person who gets to know."

Drafting 140 angst-ridden characters from a clean room while missing the clutter of an old companion is more empowering than it sounds. Setting my self-esteem, faith in companionship, and mental health aside, I'll always be in control of my tweets.