Recently at a get together, the conversation around me took an interesting turn. Some friends and acquaintances of mine began talking about their struggles with their mental health. After internally debating with myself, I personally decided not to open up at that time about my Anxiety and Bipolar Depression but rather to simply listen. I came away from the conversation in quite a reflective state and felt compelled to share my reflections from listening to this conversation.
The ladies at the get together shared their experiences with Anxiety and Depression. They discussed medication and how they either could not use it or chose not to use it. Meanwhile, I secretly thought to myself about how I both wished I did not need to be on medication while simultaneously being thankful that the right medication had literally helped to save my life. A couple of the ladies shared about being suicidal or close to it at different points in their life, something I could relate to greatly. You see, the part of my story that I typically reserve for those close to me, is my history of suicidal thoughts and the depths of the treatment I have had to seek to cope with these thoughts. Self-stigma and the fear of others perceptions is the reason it can be hard for me to open up during conversations like these. Although I did not speak up, I listened and the conversation impacted me.
I think it is powerful to know you are not alone in your mental health journey, hence why I am now sharing some vulnerable parts of my story with you. Finding community, those who struggle too, helps you know you are not “weird” or “crazy” for what you deal with. There is a certain type of healing and recovery that I believe comes through community. Community and conversations help minimize stigma. This is why I think conversations like the one I listened to, as well as support groups, are important. For me, a support group has served as a safe place for me to be able to open up, even about the vulnerable parts of my story. I think this is due to how I am able to connect with others who just seem to “get it”. We all need people who on one level or another “get it”.
However, I think it needs to be said that it is just as important to know that the fact that others struggle, does not make your individual struggle any less valid. Your individual story is so valuable. Just because someone else has the same condition as you does not mean they have had the exact same experiences as you. Yet, your experiences may be relatable on some level.
Know that your story matters, regardless of when or with whom you share it. In time, you will find the courage to share it with those that will appreciate your bravery and value your story. You are special and loved. You and your story matter. You can continue walking out your story, but it may take support along the way, and that is okay. Wherever you are at in your story is okay, just keep going.