When we’re struggling with our emotional health it can leave us feeling isolated. We worry what others might think of us if they knew the extent of our distress, the kind of thoughts that are whirring around in our heads, and how we feel consumed by our emotions at times. We might find ourselves shutting down and shutting out family and friends. We stop talking, stop sharing and stop seeking support.
While this might feel like the best way to protect ourselves in the moment, it often results in a deterioration in our mental health in the long term. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Our voice is our power, speaking out has the ability to transform the way we think and feel and inspire others to break their silence and share their story too.
We all know the saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and the reason its stuck around for so long is because it really is true. Notice that the saying is not ‘a problem shared is a problem solved’, speaking to someone may not directly solve the issues we are experiencing but it absolutely lightens the load in our headspace and creates space for hope to take hold.
It can be terrifying to think about sharing our thoughts with others and allowing them a glimpse into our inner mind, particularly if it feels chaotic or consumed with negative thoughts. But I promise you this, at one time or another we have all experienced a chaotic cacophony of thoughts. We have all struggled to make sense of the way we are thinking and feeling, our inner voice has felt more like a foe than a friend and our emotions have consumed us to the point of physical exhaustion. You are not alone.
Using our voice is our ultimate power. When we express our current reality and our hopes for the future, we start to chip away at the negative internal narrative we have been holding onto. We begin to accept that we are worthy of being heard, worthy of being understood. We are not hopeless, unlovable or unknowable.
Our story is our greatest strength because it reminds us of the hurdles we have overcome and the progress we have made, and in telling it, we realize that it isn’t over. It also provides the gift of perspective, when we say things out loud as opposed to just hearing them in our own head we begin to view and understand situations from different perspectives.
Lady Gaga is a vibrant, vivacious and powerful woman. Her success in the music industry is phenomenal and her legion of fans around the world is a testament to her ability to inspire others. She also speaks candidly about mental health struggles, including her own. Her struggles don’t make her any less powerful, quite the opposite! Her voice, her story brings hope and understanding. So does yours.
"We need to bring mental health into the light. We need to share our stories so that global mental health no longer resides and festers in the darkness.” (Burham, 2018)
Sharing our stories and using our voice is a lot like a Skywalker drawing out their lightsaber. A representation of the fight against darkness and our ability to bring our story and our self into the light, to be seen for all that we are.
So how can we take Skywalker steps towards sharing?
Preparation is key.
Talking to someone about our mental health can absolutely feel daunting but it doesn’t have to feel impossible. First and foremost, it’s worthwhile spending some time thinking about who you would like to share your story with. Some people choose friends or family in the first instance, while others decide that speaking to someone they don’t know via a mental health support helpline is most helpful. It’s important to take some time to decide what feels right for you, it’s your story and you get to decide who you would like to share it with.
Time and Place is important.
How many times have you started a conversation with a friend about something important only to be interrupted by the dog barking, or the phone ringing or Amazon delivery knocking! Your story deserves the time to tell it fully and it deserves to be told in a space where you feel safe. Choosing somewhere you are comfortable is key to increased confidence in sharing.
There may or may not be questions.
When we open up to people about how we’re feeling, we can’t know for certain how the conversation will play out. We may be asked a lot of questions for a better understanding, or none at all. Some people may prefer to let us share in our time with no interruptions. Each of these is perfectly normal. For the latter situation you might ask if there are any questions you can answer, this lets people know that you’re open to answering questions.
Be prepared to feel powerful!
Once you’ve shared how you’re feeling it’s likely you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Using our voice to tell our truth can make us feel powerful and provide us with a greater connection to those around us. An added bonus is that courage is contagious so don’t be surprised if your story empowers others to find their voice too.
One day you will tell your story of how you've overcome what you're going through now, and it will become part of someone else's survival guide.
1) Burnham, B. (2018). Lady Gaga Shines a Light on Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.namisfv.org/lady_gaga_shines_light_on_mental_health
Maria Laquerre is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who specializes in addressing trauma with clients of all ages. Maria has practiced therapy in New Mexico since her return in 2008. Maria's current passion is supporting therapists in doing their best clinical work, which she pursues through offering supervision, consultation and trainings. Maria enjoys spending time with her family, watching Star Wars and Marvel movies, discussing the psychology of pop culture and loves a good book!