Thursday 7 April 2016

The Power of Storytelling: Grace's Experience

Grace kicks off Student Minds 'Power of Storytelling' campaign with her own experiences with sharing her story.

Hey, I'm Grace and I'm the Editor of the StudentMinds Blog
I've been blogging for about a year and was very honoured to be awarded Student Minds Blogger of the Year 2015. Admittedly sharing my story and personal experiences of mental health hasn't been easy, but honestly I will never look back. The positive responses I've gained and the differences I have been able to make have all been worth it.

What inspired you to share your story?

I am a big advocate for campaigning for mental health and reducing the stigma that is associated with it. I used to be so scared to talk about my story (I still am to a large extent) but I wanted my story to be able to help others. Frequently reading blog posts on mental health and keeping up to date with mental health news made me realise that I could make a difference alongside all those inspirational people. I wanted to turn my experience of depression and self harm into a positive and help people.

What did you find hardest about sharing your story?

The hardest part about telling my story was finally admitting to the world that I have experienced mental health problems. My own experiences were a large part of my life, but not everyone that I know and love is actually aware of what I have been through, so this was a massive hurdle for me. Honestly, when I first started writing I hoped that no one I knew would find my posts. The thought made me feel sick to my stomach - as I was scared that people would judge me, that I would lose friends, that people wouldn’t see me in the same light. There is no way I wanted people to find out! Others people’s perceptions of me are something that I really do care about. I kept thinking to myself, “they don’t read mental health related blogs anyway… do they?”.

 I couldn’t have been more wrong! Only a few hours after writing my first blog post for student minds I had been messaged by a girl at my university and a friend from home. This really took me by surprise and at first, I was so overwhelmed that I told them that I had not written the post and someone who had the same name as me must have! After a few hours of kicking myself for lying, I felt I had to come clean and said yes in fact it was my post, I was very sorry and I was just very embarrassed that they had read it. When they informed me that they thought it was an excellent post and something that many people could relate to it made me realise that it was all worthwhile.

Has telling your story helped you?

Telling my story has actually been really therapeutic for me. I thought my experience was one in a million, that I had no one to turn to and that I would not be accepted. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Putting my struggles into words has helped me deeply asses what I have experienced and thus how far I have really come. Sharing my story has also helped me meet so many amazing people through Student Minds; I attended the Student Minds Festival and gave The Power of Storytelling talk. I am also grateful to be working with an inspirational bunch of people on the Student Minds Editorial Team. All in all it has given me the confidence to realise that talking about it is ok, a lot of people have experienced this and importantly, I am not alone.

Has telling your story helped anyone else?

I would like to think that sharing my story has not only benefitted me, but also helped others. I have received wonderful feedback from people who have read my personal posts. Importantly, sharing my story gave me the confidence to develop the SHINE project at my university alongside the counsellors in order to promote e-resources on mental health and wellbeing. However, if what I write helps one person then that is an achievement for me.

What blog post are you the post proud of?

The blog post that I am the post proud of is called “FindingSomeone Who Shares The Same Pain”. I am a massive advocate for peer support. As I mentioned before, when people responded to my story I was overwhelmed at first but now I couldn’t thank them enough. Having friends and family around you to support you during your journey is so important. They’ll be your support network for good times and bad. Having just one person to turn to in dark times is something I feel is imperative to getting back on the road to recovery.

Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking of sharing their story?

I would say only do it if you truly feel ready. If you have many sleepless nights and constant anxiety about posting a blog or a personal story then maybe the time is not right, but that’s okay! The first time will always be hard, but you might be surprised that you are stronger than you think and sharing your story will lead you down some amazing roads.

Are you interested in getting involved in The Power Of Storytelling Blog series? Please dont hesitate to get in touch

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