I have been sharing my life on the internet for almost three years now. When you stop and think about it, it's a strange thing to do: Why expose yourself in that way? Why risk ridicule, criticism, people sniggering about you behind your back? Wouldn't it be safer to keep your life to yourself?
I grew up with a strong mentality of keeping all details of your life private. It went so far as being encouraged by our parents to have an "official" face and a private one: Showing your game face in public, not letting on how you really feel, what you are going through, what's on your mind and in your heart.
It suffocated me. And it made me feel incredible lonely. I had issues I struggled with that made me feel like a freak. I couldn't stand my own company, because I felt like a despicable human being: For having the thoughts I did, for being selfish and not wanting to work in my parent's business, for not being satisfied with the life I had. I often felt irrationally angry or unspeakably sad and hopeless, and I didn't know why. But who could I talk to? I didn't have a "real" problem; I was simply "high-strung", "overly sensitive", a "drama queen".
I would look at the people around me, in awe and at the same time dismayed at how they had it all together: They seemed to be in control, content, with no internal battles that kept them awake at night, questioning their own sanity.
I felt like the loneliest girl in the world.
I tried to be like them: To act like everything was okay, putting on my poker face, not letting anyone see what it looked like inside.
I sucked at it. I also resented it. Why should I lie to the world? Why shouldn't they know when I didn't feel happy?
Those times of self-doubt and despair were thankfully broken up by - sometimes blissfully long - times of optimism and a joy for life. They saved me, and made me believe that I wasn't so screwed up after all; that I was normal, my biggest desire in the world. All I wanted was to feel like I fit in.
Yet, I kept making decisions that interfered with that mundane goal. Or life interfered for me, messing it up with its own wicked sense of humour: When everybody partied until the wee hours, finally falling into bed exhausted at dawn, I had to get up to go to work, at my parent's farmer's market on Saturdays, and playing the organ at church on Sundays. None of my friends had to do that, and I was alternately weirdly proud and resentful of the fact that I did.
When I didn't know what to do after school, I chose the most obscure career path I could think of.
I fell in love with a man who was not only 25 years older, but also the father of four children and married.
I became a stepmother at the age of 23.
I decided not to become a mother beyond that.
None of these experiences are that unusual. In fact, they are happening to thousands of people every day!
But I didn't know that.
I didn't know anybody personally who any of this had happened to.
Over the years, I would meet the occasional person who had experienced a tiny piece of my own trials and tribulations, and the relief I felt was indescribable. Someone who understood! I would eagerly talk to them, swapping stories, feeling a warm glow of recognition and compassion inside of me.
But those encounters were few and far between.
It wasn't until I discovered blogs that this all changed.
Blogging opened up an entirely new world for me. I found other women who decided not to have kids. During a time when I felt like the only one, those women were life savers.
I also learnt that my terrible mood swings were due to a disease, and not at all my "fault". And I wasn't the only one: There were legions of others out there! One of the most honest and inspiring ones: Jenny Lawson, who wrote a bestseller about mental illness.
I learnt that by telling your story and putting it out there, not only will you help others who have similar problems, but you will become stronger. It's scary as hell - but once you have faced that fear, summoned up every last bit of courage inside of you and hit "publish" with shaking knees and sweaty palms, you will feel braver than ever.
Talking about your fear has a weirdly liberating effect: By calling it out, it loses its power over you.
Part of fear's crippling hold is that you are worried that people will find out about whatever you think is wrong with you. You try to hide it, pretend that you are someone else, are always scared that somehow, someone will see your truth.
By opening up about it, fear loses its evil power over you. The worst thing has happened: You have showed the world the real you. And you know what?
The feeling of liberation is magnificent.
I found that by sharing my story openly, I finally learnt to love myself. Once you do, the approval of other people ceases to matter so much. Sure, it's nice to be liked by others - but it's more important to be liked by yourself.
That's what blogging taught me. That's why I won't stop writing about my life.
And you know what?
You should try it.