I’m never going to share my story of mental illness.
I say this not because I don’t want to share, because believe me, I do. But my story of mental illness doesn’t belong to me, but to so many other people, and for that reason, I’ll likely never be able to openly share it.
My story belongs to the residence student I sat with, waiting for the paramedics to show up, after she had attempted suicide.
My story belongs to another residence student for whom I did the normal lock-out procedure, only to learn shortly thereafter that he was on suicide watch, and not supposed to be left alone*.
My story belongs to the co-worker who had to leave her job so she could take care of her mental health.
My story belongs to the friend who abandoned an organization that she cared deeply about, as depression took away all the motivation and energy that she had.
My story belongs to the friend who barely graduated from high school, because her anxiety kept her out of the classroom so often.
My story belongs to the friend who doggedly continues to pursue her goals, but faces continuous obstacles due to her mental health.
My story belongs to the family member who disappeared for months, withdrawing from his social life, refusing to answer the phone, becoming a shell of the person he used to be until the depression medication kicked in.
My story is one of fear, worry, and heartache.
My story is one of strength, success, and determination.
My story is barely my story at all, as it is made up of the stories of so many others.
I wish I could share my story, but I can’t. I can’t, because those with whom my story intersects are unwilling to share theirs.
That’s why I talk about mental health and mental illness. I talk not only for those who can’t or won’t, but also in the hope that one day, I’ll be able to talk openly.
The day I can share my story is the day I’ll know we’ve truly taken a step forward.
*Everything worked out fine, thankfully.