It’s kind of weird looking back at old social media posts I made post-hospital from 10 years ago and how coy I was being. I forget a lot these days, but I didn’t tell the full story until almost a year later. Only those in my innermost circle knew the version that contained the revelation that I almost died at my own hand. I was told to never tell that version, and for almost a year, I did what I was told. Everyone could probably put two and two together, for sure, but until I said it, could it really be any more than a rumor? In all honesty, this was a story I knew that I would tell from day one and there was a point for me that people knowing they’re not alone was more important than my own privacy. I have never shared this story of mine lightly or to seek anything out for myself. I came into it with nothing.
I have nothing to lose, prove, nor hide.
It’s terrifying telling the most intimate details of your darkest hour though. It takes an enormous amount of guts and courage to do so. You have to make sure you’re not re-traumatizing yourself in the process. There are also times where you may have to strategically limit who has access to the story for your own safety and mental health.
It just requires one voice to start a movement. For years, I was the one voice in my circle, but since then, I’ve had others join in the chorus. One of those people who knew the full story from day one is a therapist now. Still others have their own lived experiences with mental health nowadays, and I was the person they came to because they knew I had been through it first.
You never know who will hear you out and take comfort in your words. You just have to make sure you’re okay to do it.
I’ll say it until my toes point up though: Stories change lives. They change the landscape of those around us more so than almost anything I know of. As a guy who loves stats and figures, I also know stories impact people far more than either of those do.
If you are willing, be open to telling your tale. There’s a world of people ready to hear it. Some of these people, you may never meet.
Seriously, don’t put pressure on yourself to get it right straight out of the gate or ever, really. There is a kind of perfection in imperfection. Have radical acceptance for yourself now as well as the past versions of yourself that have seen you through, kept you alive, and got you here, to this moment in time. They love the current version of you so much that they fought to see that person manifest. I’m mostly talking to myself here, a man who has so much baggage and formative trauma, it would cause a runaway greenhouse effect on Mars. But I’m learning, ever so slowly, that past version of me was no dummy. He had a very high level of emotional intelligence. He was kind and compassionate. Someone who was not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. He was just in environments that didn’t value those qualities, but there was nothing ever wrong with that person.
All this to say, stories are the most powerful weapon creatives have. Whether you tell your tale through the written word, photograph, film, graphic design, paint, drama, or any combination you see fit, it is a tale worth telling. Put it out there. There’s a unique twist to your tale that only you have and it will connect with someone.
That someone could even be you.