IMAGINING INCLUSION EXPERIENCES
Posted: October 2, 2018
I am fairly new to the Open Door Group. I had only been there about three months when I decided that my first program would be Telling Your Story and Being Heard. I was intrigued by the prospect of telling a piece of my story and the challenge of writing and actually, getting up in front of a group and speaking about my experience of living with a mental illness. I was also interested in hearing the stories of other participants. Something about the whole process invigorated me.
What was exciting for me was I didn’t know quite what to expect. I imagined that I might be afraid of or intimidated by sharing personal details of what was often a difficult time in my life. I thought too that I might not be able to capture my experience on paper. I found the group to be immensely pleasurable and gratifying. It definitely boosted my confidence when it comes to talking about mental illness and clarified my perspective of my own experience.
Kirsty delivering her speech during the Telling Your Story and Being Heard celebration on July 3, 2018.
It also reinforced the idea that I’m not alone. I felt a sense of camaraderie between participants. We were all in the same boat and facing a challenge together. I learned through listening to the stories of others and writing my own that mental illness takes on many forms. It shapes so many lives, for good or ill. I couldn’t help but feel compassion and a awe for the other participants who survived some pretty harrowing stuff and in turn, I felt more self-compassion.
I learned that I could fashion a glimpse of my life into words and effectively convey this to an audience. I also learned that I really enjoy working in a small group toward a common goal. And by writing, I rediscovered my love for it.
The program helped to boost my confidence but also my self-advocacy. What I learned will be very beneficial in my life and speaking up about my own mental health needs is more of a certainty now.
On the last day, the day of reckoning, it was great to see all these people I’d gotten to know, get up and tell their stories in front of an audience. Everyone was great. I have to say that it was the hardest part of the program for me. I was the last one to speak and could feel my nerves. I trembled a lot but my voice never wavered. I was proud of the story I’d chosen to tell.
I would just like to thank Anna and Anita for co-facilitating the group. It was such a great opportunity for all of us to shine. And for anyone scared but secretly wanting to take this program I would highly recommend jumping in feet first. Being a bit scared is invigorating!