Do you know when someone’s words suddenly shine a light on your motivation to go ahead and do what drives you?
I’ve been on and off with big ideas to fight the stigma around mental health. The past few weeks have been ‘off’, but yesterday someone said ‘those’ special words and changed the game.
When I’m given a task and a deadline, I go ahead and do it. But when it’s a task for my own project – and one that means so much to me – I easily get off track with my own emotions, doubts and fears. Thinking about this day and night, with help and feedback from all sides, can be quite overwhelming.
Prince Harry’s interview with Bryony Gordon about his grief denial for 20 years, following his mother’s death, made my determination reappear like an erupted volcano and now even sleeping seems like a waste of time.
Over the past two years I’ve been open about my experience with depression. It’s been quite a journey and such a relief to have a random chat with a friend, relative, colleague or stranger and see that my story resonates with others.
Yet I do worry that my vulnerability comes across as a weakness, even if we, ‘mental health storytellers’, strongly believe that sharing a story is nothing but a proof of strength. I still worry if people think I look too well to have gone through this, that my case was too mild or that my smile must be a mask. Not because I fear rejection, but because that’s exactly what mental health activism is supposed to tackle.
What shakes my head to stop thinking this way is that I do remember how difficult – in fact impossible – it was to articulate any of this when I was inside the deep hole of mental illness. How can you explain anything when all you feel is confusion, apathy, guilt and shame?
Instead of worrying, I try to explain that I feel the moral duty to speak up for those who are still stuck in that deep hole. Not only because those in the hole can hopefully feel hopeful and less isolated – like I did – but also because spreading the word can increase awareness, understanding and empathy.
This is not about altruism or seeking the hero label. Prince Harry’s story was simply one of the triggers for Heads Together, a movement that’s enabling massive amounts of mental health stories to emerge.
So is Lady Gaga’s open letter about his post-traumatic stress disorder, confirming that being able to share that story may be the most difficult but also the best part of the experience.
Selena Gomez opened up about her mental health and social media fatigue after using an award ceremony to call for the young generation to show their real selves instead of perfect bodies on Instagram.
And I wonder whether feeling #oktosay could have saved our beloved Robin Williams.
I’m not a celebrity, but so did I use my story as the trigger to the rest. I open the floor for others to share their stories on this same platform. And I guarantee you that I will never be able to beat stigma on my own.
I need you to join me. Whether it’s by telling your own story or the story of a friend who can’t speak up (yet). Or simply by spreading empathy.