“May you know the meaning of the word happiness. May you always lead from the beating in your chest. And may the best of your today’s be the worst of your tomorrow’s. Here’s to the lives that you’re going to change. Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have. Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you. I want you to have it all.” Lyrics from “Have it All” by Jason Mraz.
I included the lyrics to the start of this article as a way to show how my soul’s essence can be wrapped up and represented in another individual that lives out in the world somewhere. I’ve been honored to meet some of these people, some in real life and most online. People who want to bring light and positivity to those around them by creating little pieces of art or sending goodie bags to others around their country (namely, April Rhynold in Canada and Katie Houghton in England). It’s who I aspire to be, and I’ve been lucky thus far in my recovery that I’ve largely been able to achieve this goal.
I want to be the person who has something to give to others. I want to be that someone who can help to brighten your day—whether it’s just a small smile, a basic hello and genuine interest in knowing how you really are, giving away goodie bags of my own (mainly stationery, let’s be honest) or little art pieces. I just want to be that person who walks around with tools ready to give away to others, in case I happen to come across someone who is having a harder day than usual.
And as I said earlier, I’ve already managed to do that in some respects. In 2016, I gave away little positive messages—little torn up scraps of paper with drawings and sayings on them, mainly made up from my own mind that I would then give to people around campus.
In 2016, I also got involved in advocacy, something that comprises a HUGE part of my recovery. I reached out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)’s In Our Own Voice (IOOV) presentation coordinator from a daily prompt in a journaling book and have been going around Massachusetts since April 2016, sharing my story in recovery from chronic suicidality, OCD, depression, BPD and self-harm—oh, and trichotillomania, I always forget that one!
Also in 2016, I began submitting work to this very newspaper. I remember my first article was about stigma and I remember someone who worked at the paper coming up to me and asking if I’d prefer to be anonymous or not. I thought about it briefly and figured, hell, I might as well slap my name on it.
I didn’t realize then what I know now. And even now, I don’t completely understand how brave and how amazing it is that I’ve chosen to be very publicly open about my struggles with mental health.
I liken the process to waiting on the sidelines for someone to come up to the podium in this little community. I waited and I waited until I just one day stood up and said, “Well, I guess it’s going to be me!” Sometimes, if we choose to wait for someone else to do something, we could be waiting forever. Sometimes we have to choose between sacrificing an inch to save the whole worm.
I justify my decision to be so open about my struggles in the thought that what I say matters and that it can help someone out there. More importantly though, it can help someone to learn how to help themselves (I’m not a hero in that sense!)
If, for whatever reason, stigma or limited job opportunities come to me because I’ve so publicly shared my story, then that’s something I am at peace with. Yeah, it would suck a lot. Yeah, it wouldn’t be fair. But I’d have lived within my truth, within my purpose and in line with my values. And ultimately, that’s all that really matters. (Besides, I plan to go into fields that are centered around mental health anyways).
I’ve chosen to share my life with my student body because I genuinely believe that my voice is worth sharing, that vulnerabilities are a strength, and that choosing life and treatment is worth it. I really can’t imagine myself doing anything differently if I had to do it over again.
Most of the time though, I don’t realize it’s such a big deal. I’m so accustomed to it now that I forget the impact that I could be having on others. Unless you explicitly tell me, I won’t realize this. I also highly enjoy ego boosts, if you do want to tell me!
After all, we are only given one life.