I’ve spent almost half the year sharing my past and present stories. If you’ve been afraid to share yours, I hope this blog post will give you the courage to open up in the New Year. There is nothing more powerful than storytelling and helping others feel less alone by sharing your own experiences. I strongly encourage you to write too if you have been personally touched by mental illness. My blog is a platform I’d be happy to share with you. Personally, I write to pay it forward to all the other stories that have comforted me and taught me new things about bipolar disorder. I hope this helps you overcome your fear of having someone else judge your story if you’re interested in writing. Here we go!
I am often asked the questions, “Is it therapeutic for you to write?” and “How do you come out and tell so many people? Isn’t it scary?”
To address the first question: Is it therapeutic for you to write?
My answer is a big fat no. Rarely does it make me feel better to share my hopes and fears with strangers and people I see in my life and at work. First, I have an inkling that my message is lost and forgotten by most people who read my blog and live without a mental illness.
Secondly, it’s weird because I know that none of this will actually be discussed in real life. It’s like everyone gets to play “Peeping Tom” and I am their subject to be observed.
I’m not victimizing myself though. That statement is strictly an observation. If you were to ask me, “How do you really feel right now?”, my answer would be, “Extremely depressed and suicidal and ready to readmit in the hospital if only it weren’t the holidays.” So what would you say to that if you were just a close-ish acquaintance? It’s no wonder why it’s easier to separate the person that I am from my blogger self. There is so much fear and uncertainty that comes with asking me “How are you?”
I never want that, or anything else, to discourage you from sharing your story. There is always a reason why your gut is telling you to come out and let others know about both your wins and roadblocks. Your story is always worth telling even when don’t receive immediate gratification or feedback.
This leads me to the next question: How do you come out and tell so many people? Isn’t it scary?
Yes, it’s terrifying to have others judge you; to doubt your intelligent capabilities because you are “mentally weak”; to believe that your are just a dramatic person; or to have your boss see that maybe that accident occurred because of your mental illness.
I still share everything, hoping that I will quietly touch another soul who will be inspired to raise mental health awareness and challenge an encyclopedia full of false beliefs and judgments (also known as stigma.)
I still share everything because I always remember the earth shattering loneliness I felt when I thought I was alone in this struggle; when I thought no one else was experiencing the same symptoms and I was just out of control and crazy.
I remind myself that I am in a privileged position because I have a private wealth of knowledge that you can’t learn from a textbook or by sitting in a seminar. And if you have been touched with mental illness, you are also special and lucky to have loved and learned through your gains and losses.
Oddly enough, my husband doesn’t talk to his friends about it because apparently “guy talk” rarely includes real emotions so I know how difficult it can be to open up. I encourage him in his every moment of sadness and frustration to talk to someone about it, but where does he begin when they’ve been shut out for so long? He’s turning around now because he’s realizing how lucky he is to know so much about bipolar disorder. He knows that he has so much to share from his perspective in order to teach others that it is not so scary after all.
Trust me. You can reduce your loneliness, your dark hole of isolation, the moment you begin to release your emotions and share your story.
How do you begin to share your story?
- You know about all my life so I hope you are comfortable enough to talk and be transparent with me about bits of your story too. From there, we can discuss how to go about it. Most importantly, to identify your fears and your boundaries, like how much you actually want to share. You don’t have to put everything on the table. You can share as much or as little as you want.
- Write everything and don’t stop for any grammatical or spelling error. You can always edit later. It’ll feel weird to not edit simple spelling or grammar errors, but try your best to ignore it.
- Don’t forget the pillars of storytelling; The who, what, where, when, why, and how. Warning: it might be emotional to uncover some of unveil your feelings and that’s normal.
- Take breaks if you are feeling like it’s “too much”. It’s not a sign that writing isn’t for you. It just means that you need a break – we all need one when we’re at work, and writing is no different. Take a breather if you’re becoming overwhelmed.
- Set your limits. Writing is not a nothing or all situation. You can filter whatever you want but anything you write is still a statement of “I am here too and you are not alone.” If you’ve ever felt lonely or isolated while coping with a mental illness, remember that you are paying it forward too. Good karma and good vibes!
Good luck in your endeavours and I really really hope you will write and share your story his new year. I’m here if you need to learn how.