Do You Have the Courage to Share Your Story?
How about it? Do you have the courage to share your story? I definitely didn't have the courage for a long time.
This past Friday, I released this intimate episode about my story on the Self, Soul, Sport podcast. For years, I didn't have the courage to share my story about depression, suicide, and hospitalization. As a result, I felt crippled by my past.
My story began to haunt me in every area of my life, including my relationships and jobs. The past followed me because I didn't fully address it in the present. Do you feel the same? Do you feel heavy when thinking about your story? I'll let you in on a secret.
When I began embracing my truth and sharing my past, I began to be set free. I started with sharing my story with family, friends, acquaintances and coworkers. Then I started sharing my story in interviews, events, workshops, posts, and now on podcasts!
Most importantly, I realized in sharing my own story that other people were inspired and encouraged to do the same.
How did I cultivate that courage? I'll share the questions I asked myself in my journey. In turn, it can hopefully hope you cultivate the courage too!
What is holding you back from sharing your story? Fear, shame, and guilt are a few of the emotions that can hold you back from sharing your story. You can be afraid of what others might think of you. You can be ashamed of the story of your past. You can feel guilty about choices you've made. I know these feelings all too well.
In 2014, I experienced a major depressive episode that took me to the hospital and seeking inpatient facility care. For a long time afterward, I was haunted with the same feelings of fear, shame, and guilt that kept me from living my life to the fullest.
Holding back my story hindered my relationships, both with romantic partners and best friends. It also hindered my ability to find my true calling in a career. But when I started sharing my story with others, I began to feel lighter. I no longer held a deep dark secret, and at the same time, I noticed I was helping to fight stigma.
In order to fight the stigma surrounding mental health, I had to open up about about my experience. This blog post from the National Alliance of Mental Illness highlights ways to fight against mental health stigma. The very first way happens to be talking openly about your own journey. In sharing mine, I noticed more and more people opening their eyes about mental health.
How can your story help fight against a stigma? Maybe your narrative isn't based on mental health, maybe it's on an eating disorder, abusive relationship, or physical disability. Your story is bound to help fight against a stigma.
When I started sharing my story and fighting the stigma against mental health, people started to thank me. They thanked me for telling the truth about how depression felt. They thanked me for relating to their own personal story. They thanked me for having the courage to speak up about suicidal ideation.
I didn't realize it at first but my story was helping to fight against a stigma. A stigma that keeps about 80% of people suffering with mental health issues suffer from depression to not speak about or seek treatment (Project Helping).
With my sharing my story, I'm in the minority of 20% of people who are speaking up about mental health and seeking treatment every day. I see my therapist weekly and my psychiatrist monthly. I tell everyone who wants to talk about mental health that I've been through it. I continue the conversation and encourage the 80% to do the same!
At the end of the day, who will benefit from hearing your story? Your story can help many people, including yourself. No matter how small or how big or small, your story matters.
Sharing your story doesn't have to look like how I've shared mine. Maybe sharing your story is enough in a confidential setting like therapy. Maybe sharing your story is enough in a familial setting like home. Maybe sharing your story is enough in a communal setting like work.
No matter where you share your story or who you share your story with, the benefit is yours too. You'll be able to overcome any feelings and negative self-talk. You'll be able to strengthen relationships and build confidence at work. The benefits it has for you are endless.
Are you ready to share your story? I'm ready but that doesn't mean you are. It doesn't have to happen today or tomorrow or even at all. The beauty of sharing your story is that it's up to you when you do so. But if you're lacking the courage, I hope this post helps you realize you're not alone.
I still get goosebumps sharing my story. It took me a year and a half to share mine. It took me longer than usual to write today's blog post. But what keeps me sharing is all of you. I received so much feedback on sharing my own story.
Below are two Instagram messages that I received from sharing some of my story on the first Coffee Chat of the Self, Soul, Sport Podcast.
"Hi Shanna, I just finished listening to your podcast. Omg, you said some things that I can relate too especially about feeling depressed through the majority of your life. Although I have never been clinically diagnosed. I know it's imperative for me to make positive changes in my life in order to exist in this world. Can't wait to hear more of your journey. I feel like I know you personally. Keep up the good work. Peace and Blessings."
"Hey Shanna!! I just listened to your podcast! I've been following you for a few months now and I just want to say that I think you're very inspiring! I love how raw you are in you're podcast, and I think you'll really have an impact on people's lives. I got to your Instagram page when I feel a little lost and need some grounding and a snap back into reality and get out of negative self talk. I believe in you ton!! Keep it up :)"
If you feel compelled to share your story, you can do so by commenting below under anonymous or you can add your name! Today, I hope you know your story matters. The courage will come someday and at the right time. Talk to you next Sunday!