“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we will ever do.” -Brené Brown
It’s been on my heart for a really long time to go completely public with this blog. It is something I have wrestled with since day one back in 2014 when I wrote my first post. Who will I let read it? What if someone I know reads it and judges me? I have occasionally come to the conclusion to share all of the content that comes with this URL but I could never follow through.
A good majority of people in my life know my story, or at least a small window of what I struggle with. I have advocated eating disorders and anxiety a few times through social media because it is important to me for others to know about the stigma that surrounds mental health. The fact of the matter is that most people have no idea what mental disorders really entail due to false depictions in movies, social media, and the frequent usage of sayings such as “Ugh, I’m so OCD” or “Don’t be so bipolar”. Mental illness is not an adjective.
I have multiple fears that have held me back. Judgement, vulnerability, shame, and misunderstanding.
When you open up about something, whether it’s in person or on a larger platform, there is room for judgment and that is simply a product of living. At the beginning of my recovery journey, fear of being judged for my mental illness was a huge deal for me and the unknown of how or what people would think of me made me hesitant to advocate at all. But with time I found that it doesn’t matter, nor should I care what others think of me. At the end of the day, people will only see or read about the parts of my life that I allow. So if people want to judge the small window of my life that they can see through without getting the big picture, then so be it.
Throughout my years of therapy, I have learned that vulnerability is something that doesn’t always come easy. It’s hard to tell your story, even when you choose to. It leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth or the mental picture of walking away from the scene naked and exposed. But vulnerability has also led me to realize that some of the best feelings or most rewarding blessing comes from being vulnerable. No matter how difficult or uncomfortable, I have found it is worth it.
Shame has always been a hard pill to swallow for me and learning that my mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of has proved to be even harder. It’s hard not to feel shame or embarrassment for something you can’t control, especially because a topic as sensitive as mental illness is misunderstood. Unfortunately, most of our society is either unfamiliar or uneducated about when it comes to the topic. But I have learned that I have no reason to feel shame. After all, a label doesn’t define who I am.
Misunderstanding is something I have always walked on eggshells around. I have always feared that people won’t see the intentions I have in advocating my recovery story. Since day one I have never wanted attention surrounding my illness. I laugh at the place God has me in now, sharing my story with people I don’t even know all over the world who read my blog. I am not writing about my story and experience for attention or for people to feel sorry for me. I don’t want people to feel bad for me because to be honest, I wouldn’t change anything about the past five years of my life related to mental illness. I know that sound crazy, but hear me out. I am thankful for my struggles because of what I have learned and who I am becoming. Period.
My main goal in sharing my story; the messy parts and the achievements, my bad days and my good days, my experiences and my confusion, and everything else that recovery entails is in the hopes that someone can experience some sort of hope that there is life after an eating disorder or there is happiness in the midst of an anxiety disorder or there is help out there for depression. But most importantly, if someone can experience a moment of “I’m not the only one” then this blog has served its purpose.
For me, being able to connect with people who are dealing with the same struggles is something I am passionate about. I used to be the person who felt all alone wondering how anyone else on this earth was dealing with the same chaos going on inside my head. The truth is that there are so many. So many people struggle with mental illness but don’t have the platform, safety, or support to share their story or even admit they need help.
I just want to relate. To be a voice, an advocate. Someone who can shed some light on the reality of what mental illness really is. To prove that we are faces out there that you see walking down the street or sitting across from you in class or the person you follow with your eyes as they walk across the intersection. Everyone struggles with something, and a mental illness or a label doesn’t make me or anyone else any different.
My ultimate goal in all of this and the reason I choose to share my story is to raise awareness and be a voice in debunking the stigmas that surround mental illness. If in the meantime I am able to impact the life of another, then my prayers will have been answered.
I choose to share my story because I have anorexia, OCD, anxiety, and depression. I am not any of those things. I am not defined by the labels I have been given and neither are you.