A big part of my life over the past 20 years has been about listening to people’s stories. Working as a peer supporter and trainer of peer supporters has allowed me the great privilege of listening to great darkness and watching people as they allowed that darkness to fade while they reached toward the power and light which had eluded them for so long.
Telling the dark parts of our lives to people is something to be approached with caution in some ways. There are people who cannot be trusted with our stories. People who will use our stories and weaknesses against us.
Sometimes the people who abuse our stories are people with power over us and it makes it even more difficult to share because we have been hurt.
This month I have spent two weeks with people who are learning to share their stories in a way which will help other people open up and begin to share theirs. They are learning the value of the story and the importance of the telling of it. They are also learning about listening to stories and guarding their own hearts and the hearts of others.
In these 20 years working in mental health, I have heard all sorts of stories. I have met people who know the depths of despair, who have fought demons most of us could never even face, who have lived in situations of poverty and abuse which would make the movies look tame…and yet they are here to tell their tale and support others who need to do the same.
I imagine there are not too many people who do not have some sort of dark story to tell. I have not read the book that goes with the picture in this blog but I have heard Brene Brown speak and I can imagine she has good, scientific, proof that her premise is truth.
My proof is not scientific but rather qualitative. I have seen people rise above impossible odds in their battle with mental health issues and move into lives they could never have imagined. The turning point for all of them, including myself, was when we realized our darkness could offer light to others simply by the telling of it.
If life seems to be holding you in the dark places, take a chance and tell someone you trust about the darkness so you can find all the light you were meant to know.