As a writer who “came out” via blog in 2008 about my very personal disordered eating history, I have never shied away from telling the ugly, messy truths about my recovery–the setbacks, the triumphs. It was all laid bare on my blog, a daily journal into the life of someone in the throes of disordered eating recovery.
My readers–those either personally struggling with similar issues or who had loved one who was, or simply my own concerned family and friends–came to my blog to see if I was making progress with my therapist, if I’d stopped chewing and spitting, if I had finally had enough of over-exercising—if I was finally content in my own skin or at the reflection staring back at me. They stood by me through my slip-ups and cheered me through my wins.
And I think because I was so brutally honest about that journey to recovery, it made my blog relate-able. I didn’t hide the ugly.
Contrast that with the world of healthy living bloggers back then; as a loyal (even obsessive) reader of that segment of the internet, it was easy to see that they were only showing a sliver of their lives: the best parts. The perfectly-shot photos in gorgeous natural light of every bowl of oatmeal, every smoothie in a mason jar with a red and white striped paper straw, every “#BigAssSalad from Whole Foods … it all looked beautiful and enticing and perfect … but it wasn’t reality.
It was just shimmery glimpses of the surface, a curated illusion of perfection they wanted their readers to see to increase followers, land book deals, get on stage at major conferences, and boost their #brand. And yet it was hard to not lust after what they seemed to have, especially as my own ugly truth was spiraling out of control.
But years later, readers would come to learn personal truths about these women. Some were struggling in or ending their marriages, had body dysmorphia issues, or were masking disordered eating/over-exercising with a fad diet or “training.” Some had trouble conceiving, struggled with PPD, or were dealt serious health issues.
In my opinion, some of the best posts these brave women wrote were their “truth bomb” posts–because those are the ones we can relate to. Sure, early morning light shining into a coffee mug with a sweater-snuggled hand wrapped around it is beautiful imagery, but it doesn’t give that “I totally relate” feeling the way truth bombs do. Truth bombs teach empathy rather than inciting envy.
Which is why, when it comes to motherhood–much like blogging–I’ve not shied away from sharing the messy truth bombs from the very beginning– my pregnancy complications, the challenges of balancing being a working mom with small kids. I’ve tried to initiate open discussions about how marriage changes with kids and shared how I’ve dealt with the deaths of several friends.
So yes, that’s all out there in my writing or in photos. To some, that probably lumps me into the “over-sharer” category. But I’d rather live honestly and authentically in that category, then to sugarcoat the raw realities of motherhood. After all, whom does that serve?
Like every person with a social media presence, I’m guilty of posting a ton of “perfect-seeming” pics of my kids, husband, and dog; of our travels, of special occasions. But I’m just as inclined to post pics or blog about the “messy truth moments,” too. Like when my daughter decided to put “war paint” all over her little brother’s face and hair, or my son’s recent Epic Toddler Tantrum.
I shared a photo of my sleeping daughter in the hospital after a febrile seizure and one of my son proudly displaying the destruction he’d made in his sister’s room last year (which, fun fact, got shared by one of my favorite Instagram accounts @WomenIRL). When I see other moms and dads sharing their messiest and realest parenting/marriage/family moments, I can’t help but smile and heave a sigh of relief. Because those truth bombs–parenthood, #NoFilter–connect us to each other.
It’s through these honest posts that we can also find the way to the truth that there’s often a story behind even the “prettiest” moments.
My fave shot of my daughter at her last photo shoot? That morning I’d been yelling at her because she would not stop fighting with her brother.
That awesome speed boat selfie of my husband and I from the 4th of July on my Insta? I was miffed at him only hours before because he was still doing a project when it was time for us to leave for a party.
That funny pic of my son where he’s laughing like he’s heard the funniest thing ever? I could only get him to smile if I said his two favorite words: “poopy-butt!”
The adorable pic of my kids hugging our dog? That morning my poor husband had cleaned up a giant pile of dog puke.
We don’t always share the backstories of posts like these because, let’s be honest, it takes away from that well-composed picture. But maybe we should push even harder to drop the truth bombs, even then.
In a world where everything is filtered, edited, Photoshopped, cropped … we can always use more real.
This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.