Sharing our stories can change the world: prologue to my journey with mental illness
I've been working on something very near and dear to my heart over the past few months. It is part of my story, a story that needs to be told, and being that it is so personal and there are parts of it I have never even shared before, it makes sense that it has required me to work on it in bits and pieces.
The end result will be a 5-10 minute video of me speaking aloud my personal history with anxiety and depression, and what it was like to spend years of my life suicidal.
My hope in sharing is to offer hope for those who are still in the worst parts of their battle with mental illness, because in my darkest days I wanted to hear stories of resilience even when I didn't believe a light could be at the end of my tunnel. While I am still learning what it means to live with anxiety, I am grateful to say for a couple of years I've been mostly on the other side of depression, and as a result it's also been a few years since suicidal thoughts were my daily norm.
My other hope is to shed light on what it is like to live with mental illness, so that those who don't can find greater understanding and compassion. Obviously mental illness is different from person to person, but I believe that sharing our stories (when we are ready) is the best way to end the stigma and judgement placed on mental illness.
Today I spent a few hours trying to finalize the written version of my story - while I will not be reading from what I wrote, writing everything first is a helpful way to see how everything fits together and allow me to stay focused for sharing my story on camera.
The most challenging thing has been that I have been re-examining this 10+ period of my life is figuring out how to stay true to myself in representing what my experiences have been, what it feels like, and not have that get buried in the details of various experiences. While I one day will surely share more of individual experiences from my life, for this first project I at least want to stick to the broader picture.
The more work I put into this project, the more I realized that to be ready to sit with myself with the utmost compassion, and in order to dig deep and discover what was true about my life when I saw no end to my depression and suicidal ideation, I have had to reexamine memories I have ignored for years. I am finally in a place in my life where I can hold space for myself to not become overwhelmed by all that I lived through, but instead acknowledge myself for all that I have lived through.
This process has been eye opening and healing for me, because I can finally acknowledge how much so much of what I went through really sucked. More importantly, it has humbled me in my appreciation and gratitude for the fact that depression is not part of my regular experiences anymore, and while there was a light at the end of the tunnel for me not everyone is so lucky.
If all goes well, tomorrow I should finish editing down and figuring out what it is I've been wanting to share. I felt the calling in my heart to finally speak up after Chester Bennington, the singer of Linkin Park, committed suicide this summer. I just didn't realize it would take me so long to process and work on the words I want to say.
All along, as I've worked on this project, I've wanted to ensure that I speak to my own experiences from a place of integrity, that can allow for greater understanding by those without lived experience with mental illness, while ensuring I choose my words carefully as I can not speak for anyone else's lived experiences with mental illness. More than that, I wanted to make sure that because I am "on the other side" of the worst years of my life, so to speak, I have wanted to ensure that in sharing my journey I am still honoring where other people are right now in their own. I do not want anyone to feel like there is anything wrong with their current lived experience with depression or mental illness.
I am lucky to get to say there was a light at the end of the tunnel for me. Not everyone gets to say that.
I am hoping to have my video ready to share next week, and I hope you all will come back and watch (or read the transcript).
Thank you for reading this today.