How do you tell your story?
We talked earlier about having clear goals when you tell your story. It could be to get practical help, emotional support or even to tackle stigma.
Deciding what goes into your story is a process. In this article, we will go over what you may choose to put in your story, but you may decide to change it as time goes by or with experience. The more often you tell your story, the easier it will be for you to share and the more empowered you will feel.
Your story needs to be personal. It needs to reflect your experiences and impressions. This is accomplished by using first person words like “me”, “I”, and “my”. Don’t talk about your experience in the third person or steep it in formal language.
Don’t feel that you have to discuss everything. Respect your own sense of privacy.
One of our goals for disclosure is that this have been shown to increase a person’s sense of personal empowerment. Disclosure can’t be forced, but when people are ready to do it on their own terms, it can lead to empowerment.
Personal empowerment is much more than the absence of self-stigma. Personal empowerment is also a positive approach to one’s life and to his or her community. Empowerment is the affirmative way in which individuals view themselves, and the affirmative way in which people interact with their community.
The first part of empowerment is having a positive realistic view of yourself.
We are not defective human beings, we are humans. And humans have flaws and weaknesses, but also strengths and values.
Empowered people recognize their countless positive attributes rather than obsessing over their flaws. They affirm why they are an important person in the world. Sure, they recognize the occasional errors that haunt us all. But, they acknowledge these mistakes and still value their role in the world.
Self-empowerment does not mean hiding from one’s disabilities. People with optimism and a sense of control over their life do not deny that they have suffered psychiatric symptoms in the past. Nor do they think that they will never experience symptoms in the future. Instead, these people replace being overwhelmed by symptoms with acceptance of their disability.
With acceptance also comes the realization that the person is more than just a diagnosis. Much more! Self-empowered people accept their problems. But, they also recognize that “who they are” goes beyond a set of symptoms. The total of one’s sense of self includes the various roles and goals that make up life. Self-empowerment and positive self-esteem.
The second part of empowerment is that as you become more and more empowered in your life, people usually become empowered to change society for the better.
People with a sense of personal empowerment are not intimidated by a sometimes hostile society. Rather, they are confident that they can fight the ignorance of their community and beat stigma.
Empowered people are not overcome by anger. Instead, they are able to channel this assertive anger into activities that diminish stigma, and further opportunities. Empowered people may affect change by becoming active in anti-stigma programs that protest hurtful images of mental illness, by joining mutual-help programs that foster empowerment among peers, or by earning the appropriate credentials and trying to change the mental health system from within as a provider. The point here is that assertive anger can energize people, enabling them to take control of their lives rather than be victimized by stigma and discrimination.
A Guide to Setting Up a Story About Your Experiences With Mental Illness
This is a guide to telling your story. You may complete this form and save it as a PDF file or print it out.
Remember your goal from Part 1. You may decide that you do not want to communicate everything in this form.
1. CIRCLE the information in the sheet you think is important for the person to hear.
2. PUT A LINE through any information:
a. you believe is too personal (I was assaulted when I was six years old) or b. the person might not understand (Sometimes I hear God’s voice).
3. Practice. Writing your story and saying it out loud are two very different experiences. Now you have a chance to say your rewritten story out loud. Make the changes you need to feel more comfortable and that you feel may make your story clearer.
If you are ready to share your story with us, we would love to hear from you! You can click here to submit your story now.