We have been sharing some of the stories after-the-story if you will, of some of our tellers of our Storycatchers: Voices of the Mental Health Community event in March. For Mental Health awareness month, and because it is important to us that we continue telling our changing stories we've asked our tellers if they would be willing to share some of their experience with us.
Alisha was a highly established runner. Winning awards, and in truth, running from herself. What would happen if she stopped running and met her mental health conditions head on? She told the story of finally opening up about all parts of herself. And we are so glad that she did.
Why did you decide to tell your mental health story?
I have hidden a large part of who I am from everyone around me for so long out of fear, embarrassment, and not being able to truly accept myself for who I am and what my life has become. I am tired of hiding. I am tired of pretending. I have finally reached the point of self-acceptance and realizing that acceptance is not defeat.
Was getting up in front of a packed audience scary, exciting...both? How did you calm yourself? Explain how you felt while you were telling your story. And after you heard all of the stories.
Sharing my story was frightening because several people I knew were in the audience (with many more listening online), and this was the first time I've publicly acknowledged my life isn't as I portray. I wasn't sure how these people would react or even if they'd still be around after the presentation. In the same way sharing was frightening, it was also empowering to no longer have to keep pretending to be someone that I'm not.
What most surprised you about sharing your story?
My story was generally well-received and even opened the door for future conversation and education.
Since you've told your story, what has changed? What has stayed the same?
My life living with mental illness has remained the same, but I am now more open about my illnesses, which hopefully will help educate others, encourage those who are struggling to seek help, and reduce stigma.
Has telling your story opened any new doors/possibilities for you?
Not yet, but in the future it might.
Would you tell your story again?
What advice would you give someone else who is considering sharing their story?
Consider your audience and carefully weigh the pros and cons of sharing. Ask yourself if you're ready to share your story, and if so, what parts and how much should you share. Think carefully about possible repercussions and decide if you can handle the consequences that may come your way.
Why do you think telling your story matters?
Sharing our stories and experiences can help better unite our community by creating greater understanding and empathy toward others. Through storytelling, we can learn to value diversity while discovering that in the end we are far more alike than different.
You can listen to Alisha's story HERE