Today, I Launched My Mental Health Secret

Today I flipped the switch on My Mental Health Secret. Here’s my introductory post.


I want to get this right.

When I created My Diabetes Secret, I knew there was tremendous potential for a platform for people impacted by diabetes to safely, and anonymously, share what they were feeling. It feels like we, the diabetes community, have only recently matured to the point that openly discussing the mental burden of diabetes is something that we’re moderately comfortable with.

When I began planning the expansion of the My Disease Secret platform to other communities, I put the mental health community at the top of my list because I know that we need to have larger conversations about anxiety, depression, compulsions, obsessions, and other mental health issues. There needs to be a better way to talk about our experiences. There needs to be a better way to shine the spotlight on what is really happening. My hope is that the promise of anonymity will provide a safe space for all of us to talk about these issues.

So I reached out to a couple of advocates in the mental health space. Mark, from Everybody has a Brain, and Mike from It Starts With Me (oddly enough, both from Canada) to help ensure I get this right.

With their help, I hope to build a platform for an open, honest discussion about issues like anxiety, depression, fear, compulsions, obsessions, challenges, recovery, and relapse.

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Today, I Launched My Chronic Pain Secret

I’ve seen what My Diabetes Secret has done for the diabetes community. Every time a new secret is published, a resounding “me too” in likes and reblogs follow. Bringing these internal, emotional struggles to the surface has shed a new light on what it’s really like to live with diabetes. Managing that disease is more than just checking your blood sugar and taking your medication, and more and more people are starting to recognize the larger psychosocial challenges that come with living with a chronic disease.

With that in mind, I sought to expand the concept of My Diabetes Secret to other chronic disease communities. First among them is the chronic pain community and

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About Speaking at AADE15

The bow tie has landed. #AADE15

A photo posted by Christopher Snider (@iam_spartacus) on

And just like that my 24 hours in New Orleans is complete.

If you want to get to the good stuff, here’s the link for my slides, data, and additional resources I provided after my presentation –

Unfortunately, I’m not sure if I can call my presentation a success. I thought I was invited to speak about Twitter data and show off some cool graphics to a crowd that understood the basic mechanics of Twitter, but was looking for more insight into what the diabetes community has done and continues to do on Twitter. I completely underestimated the amount of time I should have spent covering the basics.

“How many of you are actively on Twitter?” For some reason I didn’t interpret the lack of hands in the air as a sign that I needed to slow down and focus on the simple stuff first:

What is Twitter? How do you sign up for Twitter? What the heck is that “#” symbol? What is an impression? How do you use Twitter? Why should I use Twitter? How do you Tweet? How do I follow you? Who should I follow? Why does this thing need my phone number? Help?!

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My Talk at AADE15

I’m presenting at the annual meeting for the American Association of Diabetes Educators (#AADE15) on Friday at 11 am. If you’re going to be in New Orleans, swing by Room R06-R09 and check out the awesome pictures I will use to distract the audience from seeing how nervous I will be.

I will share my entire slide deck for “The Social Network: Using Twitter to Understand Health Conversations and Visualize Data” along with relevant notes and data referenced Friday morning on Twitter and Facebook, and later here if you want to see what the fuss is about.

Part of my deliverables to the audience will include a #dsma how-to and a quick guide to common diabetes hashtags. My goal after my hour in the spotlight has concluded is to empower the educators in attendance to feel safe and confident in joining in the conversations that are taking place online. I don’t necessarily think that every medical professional needs to actively engage in tweetchats every week, although that would be cool; but I believe acknowledging, respecting, and following these conversations is a great way to better understand what people with diabetes think and feel.

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On Constructive Criticism and Showing Respect

Earlier this week I spoke at a meetup for the Bay Area Chapter of Medicine X about My Diabetes Secret and My Chronic Disease Secret. You can view the slides from my presentation here. I talked about the original inspiration for My Diabetes Secret, shared some of the submissions I’ve read over the past couple of years, and covered the evolution of the design for the platform – notably making a better effort to put the resources page more visible.

As my presentation moved into the challenges of My Chronic Disease Secret, I asked a number of questions of the audience to try and start a conversation about what about this anonymous sharing platform works and what needed to be rethought. Does an anonymous sharing platform like this only benefit the diabetes community? If not, how might we better engage other disease communities? How might we improve upon the task of providing a platform free of judgement, shame, stigma, and identity to the larger chronic disease community?

The resulting feedback I received was exactly what I needed to hear.

Some don’t see what they are living with as a chronic disease, and may not identify with a site named “My Chronic Disease Secret.” Some haven’t accepted their diagnosis. Some don’t want to, or can’t relate to other disease communities. While there’s much we can learn from each other across diseases, these’s still something to being among your peers. “Me too” can only go so far – I think I stretched that philosophy too far with the initial approach I took to My Chronic Disease Secret. In applying the My Diabetes Secret formula so broadly, I didn’t respect the individual nuances of each patient community. It was wrong for me to think that I could reach everyone at once. This is a process, and it takes time.

The funny thing is, I’ve been having these doubts and criticisms circling in my head for weeks, if not months, but hearing these points from people who were brand new to this idea made all the difference. The people at this meetup only knew of My Diabetes Secret what I was able to convey in 20 minutes, their perspective was fresh. And ultimately, their feedback is part of the reason I’m writing this today.

Part of the reason My Diabetes Secret works is that it’s focused. Instead of trying to speak to everyone, it just reaches one community – people impacted by diabetes. And while my initial ideas about expanding the platform were similarly focused, I got distracted by the prospect of trying to help everyone at once and ended up satisfying none of my initial goals. With all of this in mind, I’m going back to my initial question that started this whole adventure:

I created My Chronic Disease Secret because I felt other online disease communities could benefit from a platform to share their feelings anonymously, free of judgement, shame, or stigma with each other. But I didn’t give these communities the respect they deserve in providing them with their own respective platforms as I had for the diabetes community. If diabetes has its own space, why not cancer? Why not arthritis? Why not mental health conditions? So…I’m going to do that.

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Looking Ahead

The last time I wrote something on this blog I admitted that my desire, or more accurately my drive to write had diminished. Obviously, based on the timestamps, that problem still persists. Over the weekend I realized that my lack of initiative here has negatively impacted my productivity where it matters most – my professional career. I never would have guessed that this silly little (sometimes about) diabetes blog would be responsible for generating and maintaining the creative juices that flow through most of my online persona. And that those creative juices are the fuel that power the rest of my professional work throughout the day. But here we are.

As my time, energy, and focus are required elsewhere, the urge to find something to post on this space has declined. For the longest time I felt obligated to maintain some kind of illusion that I was a reliable beacon for the diabetes community evidenced by a new post every weekday. Even if that meant sharing a cat picture and writing 12 words underneath it, you could count on me.

To an extent, this can no longer be the case.

I’m not leaving. But I can’t pretend to be the diabetes advocate I was last week, last month, or last year. I just can’t. This means that I have to be more judicious with my time, and that ultimately means this blog cannot function as it has in the past.

So, when I have something to say, I’ll say it – here. And when I say it, I’ll do my best to make it worth your time to read. But I won’t be here every day. And I’m going to be okay with that.

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I’ve Got Nothing

Yesterday was the first time I shared something on this blog in almost three weeks.

Ordinarily I’d quickly put up a bunch of back-dated content to fill out the illusion that I’m publishing something here every day. But that’s not the truth. That’s not me. At least right now it’s not.

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