When I launched my blog, My Big Fat Bipolar Life, I decided it wouldn’t just be about my mental illness journey. While sharing my story is important, it was always my intention to build a platform, so I could create an ongoing conversation about mental illness and suicide.
Sharing a piece of my story week after week is challenging. It is hard to take my personal experience and mold it into actionable advice to help others lighten the load of their own mental illness journey.
The Light Brigade
I created my Facebook community, The Light Brigade, to be a safe, Christ-centered, interactive community for those who struggle with mental illness—and those who love them—to share their stories and find support, encouragement and hope.
I have had the privilege of sharing a handful of mental illness testimonies in The Light Brigade. I am thankful for the women who have entrusted me with a piece of their story.
But I want more! One symptom of bipolar disorder is delusions of grandeur. To put it in laymen’s terms, I think big. Really big. So, when I think about the future of my blog, I see an endless line of people standing up one by one to share their stories.
What’s in a Name
“And for those who live in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined” (Matthew 4:16 NLT).
Why did I name my Facebook community The Light Brigade? I believe one story has the power to change lives by shining a light on our similarities instead of our differences. The light it emits may be dim, but the value of that light cannot be discounted. If that one story leads to another person speaking up, the light grows brighter. Eventually, the light will shine as bright as the sun.
The light serves two purposes. It illuminates the darkness hidden in the recesses of a mentally ill mind, so the dark thoughts lose their power to control that person. The light also helps those who are in the dark about the realities of mental illness develop a better understanding of what it encompasses.
What’s Your Story?
Like I said before, my grandiose mind sees people waiting in line to share the story of their mental illness journey. But then I remember how long I remained silent about my own journey. I spent the past twenty-two years sharing information about my bipolar disorder diagnosis on a need-to-know basis.
I only shared it when I thought it could help someone. There was always a part of me afraid of how others would react to my story. Experientially, I knew people leave when faced with the reality of mental illness.
Here are three fears that stop the mentally ill from sharing their story:
1. People will treat me differently if I share my mental illness journey.
I must admit this is a legitimate concern. I have overshared in the past and paid the price. When I write about tough topics like postpartum psychosis, mania and intrusive thoughts, there is no way to make it pretty.
The truth of your mental illness will be too much for some people. Some people will leave. Some will quit taking your calls and answering your texts. There is no way to sugarcoat it.
Those people are not your people. For every person who cuts you out of their life because of your truth, there will be at least one person whose life is saved because you shared your experience.
2. My story doesn’t have value.
For a long time, I believed my story didn’t have value. I thought my diagnosis defined me, and I came up short. Either my journey was exceedingly dark and scary, or I was on solid ground, and that part of my story was boring.
Here’s the truth: Every story has value. The bleakest moments and the brightest ones. Whatever stage you are in your journey, someone is following in your footsteps.
You may be a few steps ahead or behind, but there is common ground in your journey. Your story lights a path for them and reminds them they are not alone.
When you stand up and share the story of how you made it from the deepest depths to solid ground, it gives the individual struggling the hope of a new tomorrow. You remind them the challenging season they are in is just a season—not a bad life.
3. I am not a writer or public speaker. I don’t have the proper words to tell my story.
It is natural to feel inadequate about your ability to share your story. You may be someone who doesn’t share easily or who doesn’t have a way with words.
First, know there is no right way to share your story. It is your personal story, so the facts are not in dispute. You lived it, so share it however you see fit. You don’t have to tie the words of your story into a pretty bow. It is more important to be real and raw.
And what if I told you you didn’t need to have the words? I have the words, and I would love to hear your story and share it in a way that does it justice. Would that change your mind about sharing your experience?
Sharing the story of your mental illness journey accomplishes several things:
- It helps create an ongoing dialogue about mental illness.
- It helps people better understand what mental illness is and what it isn’t.
- It helps others with mental illness feel less alone.
- It helps others learn that mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes.
- It helps others learn the stories of the mentally ill are not all tragic. The mentally ill also experience great triumphs.
- It helps others realize the mentally ill are just like everyone else. They have the same hopes and dreams. Their brains are just wired a little differently.
Call to Action
The only way to change the conversation about mental illness and suicide is if we actually talk about it. I believe the day will come when my vision for my blog will come to fruition.
I see myself sharing stories and encouraging others not just in The Light Brigade, but also in my blog. I see guest posters writing about their journeys, and I see myself interviewing and chronicling the stories of those who don’t have the words to describe their experience.
People are not lining up in the street to share their stories today, and that’s okay. We will not change the conversation overnight.
One person will share their story and another person will share theirs and so on until the sound of our voices becomes a beautiful noise. And as we share our stories, the light they radiate will pave the way for someone to walk out of their personal darkness.
What You Can Do
Will you be the next person to share your mental illness journey? What’s your story?
To find out three reasons you should share your story, click here.
Join my private Facebook community, The Light Brigade to find support, encouragement and hope.