Over on Youtube, Ellie Kay kindly mentioned this blog to her followers as a place where anyone struggling can share their story. She is a lifestyle and beauty blogger who loved Survival is a Talent’s mission to celebrate our differences and share our stories. Not only does sharing your story help you process your own emotions and heal, it helps others. But how?
3 Ways Sharing Your Story Helps Others
1. Sharing your story lets others know that they are not alone in their struggles.
Growing up with mental illness can be a lonely business. I had two sisters, friends, and a big family, yet I often felt deeply alone and misunderstood when I was younger. When I happened upon The Bell Jar (Modern Classics) by Sylvia Plath, I fell in love. This dark and depressing novel was like a beacon of light to me. I finally felt understood. I could finally put words to what I had been feeling for so long but was unable to identify. Now that I am out of that depression, I can’t even read that book without feeling trapped and sad. Other people didn’t understand my love for Sylvia Plath, but at the time, she was like a friend who understood how I was feeling and didn’t judge me. She was exactly what I needed as a lonely freshman in high school. A lot of the time just knowing someone else feels the same way you do makes you feel less alone and that there is a place for you in this world, after all.
2. Sharing your story helps others realize that they, too, can get through hard times.
Being a positive role model and being open about your struggles lets others know that there is a light at the end of whatever tunnel they are currently lost in. When I was 15 and going through depression, reading about Susanna Kaysen’s listlessness and depression in Girl, Interrupted, knowing that she got out of that hospital and was able to live a successful life filled me with so much hope. When I was hospitalized for psychosis, I reread The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks. After being diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (schizoaffective disorder), I felt like a freak, like I would never be able to fit in with anyone else in society, hold down a job, and finish school. But knowing that Saks was not only able to finish school, but get multiple degrees, become a professor, and write a book about her life gave me the hope I needed that, I, too could be a contributing member of society. And two years later, I am.
3. Sharing your story helps fight stigma.
The more people come forward to share about their struggles with mental illness, the more mental illness itself is normalized. A lot of the time, society thinks of people with a mental illness as a homeless or violent person when in reality only about a quarter of us are homeless and we are more likely to be a victim of violence than the other way around. The fact is that mental health problems are more common than most people think. 1 in 5 Americans has struggled with their mental health. Coming forward can be scary, but for me, it was a relief to let go of all the secrets that had built up over the years. Sharing my diagnosis with the public was nerve-wracking and more than a few family members have raised an eyebrow. Why would she want people to know her problems? Does she just want attention? Sure, sometimes it hurts when people don’t understand. But sharing my story with the world was a load off of my chest. It was a relief. More than that, it has made it easier for other people in my family to come forward with their mental health struggles. And they have. Little by little, as each of us in our communities come forward, we are chipping at the stigma that keeps those suffering in silence for so long.
August B Pfizenmayer is the founder of Survival is a Talent. She is a freelance writer, blogger, and student. She loves reading, sweets, and warm weather. A story about her life with a mental illness has been published in the next volume of The i’Mpossible Project. It is available for pre-order and will be in stores November 2017. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.