One of the greatest indicators of continued progression is individual experiences. By proxy of this, the only way to continue advancements in mental health fields is through sharing personal experiences. When people begin to consider the diversity that is comprised within mental health communities one can begin to appreciate the need for communication and understanding of the similar, but differing values enveloped within each individuals history.
Some of the benefits of sharing and communicating these experiences include furthering awareness, increasing empathy, strengthening compassion towards others, and advancing the knowledge base of mental health related disorders.
There is no greater sense of joy and relief than that of being able to confidently express one’s own personal battle with mental health conditions. Being able to openly discuss all the emotions thoughts and behaviors enveloped throughout one’s mind is refreshing, freeing and inspirational. Being able to set aside hesitations, worries, and fears leads individuals away from the prison that is mental health stigma. Understandably, not every individual is in a position where they feel comfortable in opening up, but for millions of others, it is a critical leap towards improving individual and community mental health.
Pros of Sharing Lived Experiences
- Personal growth: Having the courage to openly share one’s experiences helps in learning from past challenges, as well as helping the individual gain insight and mature into their best possible version.
- Social connections: There’s no better feeling than having a friend or family reciprocate the experiences that you have gone through. Therefore, opening up about your experiences creates a new avenue for building a stronger support network.
- Inspirational empowerment: Your decision to open up and share your mental health experiences will undoubtedly inspire, educate and influence others. Many will admire the strength you’ve shown and use that as a source of confidence and courage in order to manage their own challenges. Through this experience you may learn just how pervasive and sometimes long-lasting mental health disorders can become. Additionally, you may also realize that many people do show compassion and empathy towards mental health and will not stigmatize you for it.
- Honesty: Being able to live truthfully and genuinely instead of holding back or lying about how you’re feeling will allow you to be completely present in every moment. You will no longer feel like a stranger in your own skin or as if you are deceiving people, your sense of guilt will diminish in order to make room for closure and a feeling of completeness.
Unfortunately, there are also potential negative effects of opening up and communicating your lived experiences. It’s important to understand this as it allows you to increase your preparedness for any worst-case scenario.
Cons of Sharing Lived Experiences
- Stigma: Stigma can occur among a variety of different situations, and with numerous friends, family or associates in your life. When facing stigma, it’s important to have coping strategies and affirmation techniques in order to mitigate the ignorance, adversity and antagonism you may face.
- Insensitive friends/family: The individuals who you might refer to as friends or family members may exclude you from certain gatherings or may talk about you behind your back. Relatedly friends/families may also separate themselves from you and begin to ignore you.
- Hurtful advice: Because of one’s own ignorance to mental health conditions many of the individuals you open up too may give you unhelpful advice that can discourage you from seeking treatment such as medication, therapy or support groups.
It’s important to note that a lot of the cons mentioned in this list are not extensions of the person, but rather external factors reacting to your expression. This external reaction does not mean that you are at fault for wanting to share your lived experiences.
Sharing your story doesn’t mean that it has to be with another person or specific group of people. There are many other ways in which you can share your experience publicly.
- Instagram/Facebook/Twitter: there are numerous mental health groups and pages on social media where you can share your own history while simultaneously controlling the level of privacy and anonymity you wish to retain.
- Blogs: Blogs such as this are a great medium in which you can express yourself truthfully and artistically. You can even comment on this blog right here and describe your own mental health experience.
- YouTube/Vimeo: There are also various apps and video websites that will allow you to share your story. Creating a YouTube channel and making videos related to your experience can be a great opportunity to show oneself completely and courageously.
- Art: Painting, drawing, landscaping, and photography are all mediums that can be utilized to express your emotions and experiences. Poetry and music are also great art forms that can help channel a lot of the emotions, behaviors and thoughts that one may carry when living with a mental health condition.
- Books: Similar to blogs, writing a book can be a great way to chronicle your experience, but also reflect on the adversities that you’ve overcome and the growth that you have made as an individual. Books are also a vessel in which you can design and express your story the way that you would like to.
Like most things in life, the decisions we make have positive consequences, but they can also carry negative repercussions. That is why it’s important to make sure that you have a plan and are prepared when you want to begin to open up about your mental health. It’s important to carefully consider who you will tell first. Maybe you would want to start with a close friends or family members before you move on to other people in the general population. Overall, though being able to openly communicate with others about your individual experience trumps any potential negative reaction. Remember, once we begin to care too much about others perception, we begin to disregard our own thoughts, feelings and actions.
This decision is difficult, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming, but being able to share your experiences means that you will evolve and grow as an individual. The avenue you create will allow others to come out and share their own experiences more fluently and comfortably. The support, empathy and bravery you will gain is worth 10x more than any possible negative repercussion.
The life that you experience and move through is yours and only yours. Live truthfully, openly and cherish the moments that you have overcome. The story of your life is your narrative, and it can lead to beautiful changes in your life. Choose to break the stigma don’t let it silence you!
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