Thursday 21 April 2016

The Power of Storytelling: Hannah's Experience

Hannah Rainey has written for Student Minds 'Power of Storytelling' campaign with her own experience of sharing her story.

Hello! I'm Hannah, and I'm currently working in Marketing. I'm 20 years old, and started my blog in December 2015. Having suffered with anxiety and depression, mental health is a subject close to my heart and therefore one of the main categories on my blog. I feel very strongly about eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health and want to do as much as I can to help other people with a mental illness.

What inspired you to share your story?

To help other people. If I can help even just one person, I will be happy. I know how tough it is, and I know that when I was really suffering, I didn't always know where to look for help and support. For that reason, I want to provide that help and support for people who need it. Another main reason is to reduce stigma - I think a lot of the stigma surrounding mental illness comes down to lack of education, and people just don't talk about it enough. It needs to be recognised and spoken about - so that's what I'm doing.

Has telling your story helped you?

On the whole definitely yes. It wasn't easy by any means, but that's why I blog. I find that blogging about my experiences is much easier for me - when I write I am able to get more out. When writing one particular post, I sobbed the whole time. I just couldn't stop crying whilst writing it. But as soon as I'd finished, the most enormous weight was lifted. Also, the level of support in the blogging community is absolutely crazy. There are so many mental health blogs out there that really help me to understand that I'm not on my own or abnormal - mental illness really is common - and different people have different tips and advice.

Has telling your story helped anyone else?

I guess it's hard to say for certain, but I had some really positive comments on two of my posts. One gave tips on coping with anxiety, and the other an open letter to the person who stood by me through depression. People commented saying that they found my blog really inspiring, the tips were really useful, and I'd given them hope. To me, that's why sharing my story is so important. It fills me with joy to know that I have given somebody hope that it will get better. Hope is vital.

What did you find hardest about sharing your story?

Looking back on my experience, and realisation of what I've been through. Remembering what it was like, the things I was thinking. I absolutely cannot bare the thought of somebody else going through that. I found it really, really tough to look back on myself at that time, because I wasn't myself. I was a different person. This is particularly hard for me because I desperately miss the person I was before mental illness. So right now, I'm working on getting that person back.

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

I would definitely recommend it, but only when you are ready. As I said, it's very difficult to look back on yourself. Even now I find it heartbreaking to acknowledge what I was feeling and even more so, what I was thinking. You absolutely have to be ready. Look back on yourself yes, with sadness at what you went through, but with hope and strength for the future. You will know when that time is. 

Why do you think it's important for people to share their story?

I think that feeling isolated is one of the most horrific things about mental illness, and all the time people are sharing their stories and putting them out there, we can reduce that isolation. I also think that getting our stories out there almost creates this 'army' of incredibly strong people who have beaten some serious challenges. That 'army' in itself provides hope that things can change and that there really is that 'light at the end of the tunnel.' Hope is what kept me going. We absolutely need to end the stigma surrounding mental illness and all the time people share their experiences we are slowly doing that. We must keep going and keep campaigning.

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

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