The following piece was selected as one of the winners of this year’s Refuat Hanefesh Creative Expression Contest. Age group: College And Up. It has been lightly edited.
When I came back from my first stay at an inpatient hospital, I was scared to leave my house. I was scared of the questions people would ask and how I would answer them in such a vulnerable place. What would I say when neighbors ask me why I’m back home and not in the U.S., where I had been working? What would I respond when people ask me what I’m up to in life now when even I don’t know what I’m up to?
As someone who was struggling with anxiety, depression, PTSD and suicidal ideation, part of me was perfectly happy staying home, but I wanted at least to have the option to get out.
I knew that the only way I could comfortably (more like tolerably to be completely honest) leave my house was by sharing my story. I wrote and rewrote my Facebook post until I felt like I had gotten it right. Hesitantly, I clicked “post” and logged off; I was too scared to see what would happen.
When I logged back on, I was overwhelmed by the amount of support. My post received dozens of likes, the most I’ve ever gotten, and a tremendous amount for me considering how few friends I have on Facebook. People posted the kindest comments.
But the point of my story is what came afterward. One friend read my post and asked if it was ok for her to call. She went through something similar and wanted to share her experience with me. That conversation saved my life. Lying in bed, crying hysterically and losing all hope, I repeated her words in my head. I wanted to ignore them, but they echoed through my mind. Her words gave me the strength and motivation to keep fighting.
I was so glad I had shared my story. That was the most rewarding experience I’d ever had.
What happened next was even more rewarding.
A friend reached out to me while I was continuing treatment. She had read my post and wanted to talk. We spoke for well over an hour, and what started as me supporting her soon turned into one of the most supportive friendships I have. She really understands me; she knows what I’m going through better than anybody else.
I never imagined how big of an impact one post from just another person with few Facebook friends could make.
Speaking publicly does more than promote awareness and help fight stigma: it saves lives.
To all those of you who are fighting – there are people out there suffering too. You’re not the only one. People you love are suffering silently as well. If you open up, I know it’s not easy. It’s scary. It makes you feel exposed and vulnerable. However, you may be able to save yourself while helping loved ones along the way.