Despite the many criticisms that can be made about social media, the opportunity for self-representation is one of its most prominent benefits. As we have already discussed, there is a dire shortage of the representation of mental illness in mainstream media. Existing examples of depictions of mental illness are often criticised for being examples of misrepresentation.
Kerry is a 20 year old woman in the UK who has taken her representation into her own hands. She absolutely adores her dog, Chester. Her nephew means the world to her. But she is also constantly fighting monumental battles with her mental illnesses.
Her Instagram account (@kezinhospital) is a candid reflection of her struggles, her triumphs, her setbacks and her feelings while she is treated inside a psychiatric clinic. Not only does Kerry share her feelings and thoughts about her journey to recovery, but she is also candid about her feelings about staying in a psychiatric hospital.
With a substantial following of 650 followers, her voice is one that many people clearly want to here.
We spoke to her about why she decided to take her experiences to social media.
What are you being treated for?
I am currently in hospital on a secure personality disorder ward. Although my main diagnosis is borderline personality disorder, I also have anorexia which is also being treated alongside [it].
How long have you been in hospital for?
I have been sectioned in hospital since 13th October 2016, so it has been 10 months now – although this isn’t my first time in hospital. In the past 5 years I’ve spent approximately 35 months in hospital spread out over 6 different admissions.
How long have you been documenting your experience in hospital for?
I’ve had various mental health based social media accounts for probably around 4 years. I’ve used it on and off, but have been active on my current recovery account for 2 years.
What made you decide to document your experiences on Instagram?
I decided to start a hospital diary as recently I have found it really motivational to be able to look back and see how far I have come. It’s a way for me to document everything that is going on and to also seek support from others when I am struggling. It also gives people who don’t struggle with their mental health an insight into what it is like to live with a serious and enduring mental illness.
Did you have any reservations about starting this account?
I often think about deleting my account or think about making it a lot more private as I do often get people giving me a hard time over things I post. I also worry a lot about what people would think, but I’ve come to learn that this is me and I can’t change the fact that I am mentally ill and struggle. I’m not going to sugarcoat things and I have a good support network that are there to reassure me that it’s okay to post my struggles and not to be ashamed.
Why did you decide to make your account private?
I decided to make my account private as initially I didn’t have anyone I knew in real life following me as I was very ashamed of everything. I’ve come to realise that most people know I’m ill anyways, and so I should use my journey to help educate people on mental health and try and dispel some of the misconceptions about being in a secure psychiatric hospital.
What have been the positive outcomes of documenting your time in a psychiatric hospital?
There have been so many positives from documenting my journey. Aside from the positives I’ve already mentioned, I’ve gained so much support from both the mental health community on Instagram and from people I know personally. I have had such an influx of support from so many different people, many of whom I haven’t spoken to in years. It’s also helped some of my friends who have been struggling to open up as it’s made them realise that there is no such thing as normal anyways.
Have there been any negative ones?
There [are] lots of negatives, I get judged a lot by people, people constantly asking why I would post a photo where you can see a scar or see a bandage. It’s often really petty stuff but it can get to me really easily, but I’ve learnt not to let it bother me. Why should I be ashamed of my self harm? It’s not something I’ll ever flaunt or be proud of, but it’s certainly not something I should embarrassed about.
[Header image credit: @kezinhospital]