All most people want in life is to be heard, validated and understood. The unfortunate truth is that so often we go through life feeling unheard. When that happens, we can feel as though what we have to say is not important. When we perceive that our story is not important, we stop fighting to be heard. The fact of the matter is, every person has their own story and their own experiences that we can learn something from. For me, writing became a way to share my story. I have never considered myself to be a “writer.” In fact, I used to despise writing. Putting my thoughts into words has always been a challenge for me. I often find myself thinking about all sorts of different things, but when I go to write my thoughts down or explain them to someone, I struggle to find the right words. Part of what has inspired me to have the courage to talk about my mental health are blogs like To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA). I have an enormous amount of admiration for people who have a gift for expressing thoughts, feelings, and ideas beautifully through words.

Stigma, shame, and judgement are just a few examples of things that can hold us back from sharing our stories. Finding your voice is not simple. I let the fear of not being good enough stop me from feeling as though sharing my story mattered. I have spent the majority of my life asking myself why anyone would care about what I had to say. Ever since I can remember, my fear of judgement has held me back from outwardly expressing my thoughts. It has been far from easy. In fact, it took years of gathering the courage, vulnerability, and confidence to open up to others. It’s still a battle I face every time I decide to share my thoughts and feelings. But, I can honestly say that discovering my voice, and sharing my story, thoughts and perspectives has been one of the most rewarding things.

So why do it? Why be vulnerable and subject yourself to judgement, criticism or questions? I choose to write because to me, the rewards are so much greater than the potential fears I initially faced. I took the chance because I was inspired by someone who shared their story, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, sharing mine would inspire someone else to find their voice, share their story or ask for help.

I remember when I first opened up to a large audience on social media about my battles with mental illness, the love and support I received was overwhelming. I received so many kind messages from friends, family, and even relative strangers thanking me for having the courage to open up and share my story. I realized just how many people I had in my corner supporting me. I learned that the people who matter to you most will not change their perceptions of you based on your mental illness.

Receiving that overwhelming love, support and encouragement was incredible. It’s easy to feel alone and feel like nobody understands or truly “gets it.” And while nobody can understand perfectly what you are going through, they can still be there for you to stay by your side as you walk through the storm. That being said, it’s tough to be a source of support when you don’t know someone needs it. I promise you, there are people out there who are willing to listen.

I share my story because it is part of healing, not only for myself, but for others as well. Telling my story allows me to accept the challenges I have faced, and share the things I have learned and continue to learn throughout this journey. More importantly, people can hear my story and know that it is okay to tell theirs. People deserve to know that their voice matters, that they are worthy of love, support and happiness. Perhaps most importantly, people can read my story and know that they’re not alone. It’s hard to adequately describe how much it means to me to know that I’ve had a positive impact on at least a few people’s lives. Since opening up about my mental health, I have received messages from people who read some of my posts on social media and decided to get help after messaging me. I had the privilege of watching a video of one of my friends sharing her story, and I was so incredibly proud. As I continued watching the video, she went on to talk about how I was her biggest inspiration to share her story and to tell someone about what she was dealing with. That is why I write.

We are all living stories that want to be heard, understood, loved and validated. I choose to write because everyone deserves to know that there are people who will listen. Help is out there, hope is real, and recovery is possible.