The earliest memory I have is sitting inside the dark confines of a cupboard, layered in blue formica. Screams echoed around me, but the walls of my mind and space protected me. Shrieking, demons from hell, sound waves reverberate off the wooden walls. I hold my ears, close my eyes. Maybe it will go away, maybe I’ll disappear. My elder sibling grabs my arm and wraps her arms around me. Tears fall on her T-shirt, I stare into her eyes. They’re wet too. This was my earliest memory of my father and mother fighting.
My next memory is from the backyard of our yellow house. I spent hours upon hours playing on the large wooden spools my mother picked up for tables in our home. Such fun, falling and getting back up again. Hours spent, by myself, enjoying my play. Where was my family? Why was I alone? Was I?
My innocence was stolen from within the walls of the room in the yellow house. I felt unsafe and closed my mind off to outsiders and any adult conversation. Instead, my focus became the classroom, a safe place where I excelled. Everything I am and all I do was focused inside every classroom. I thrived there and was admired, noticed— a star.
I’ve not told my story due to feeling ashamed, being embarrassed and wanting to forget it. I closed up those walls with family and some neighbors, but mere strangers and teachers was okay.
Mental illness needs to be talked about, we need to share our stories. Stories like mine are common. We are all human and our experiences shape us, fortify our mind with ideas of right and wrong, pleasure and fear. Our differences should be celebrated and I know that throughout my entire life, any time I opened up and spoke to someone, well, we found common ground through a story. Stories are a lost art and most aren’t told anymore. Stories are now found on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. How about the old form of stories? Getting to know people outside of your comfort zone. Talking to people, smiling at them. We really and truly could change the world.
Kids need to be heard too, if not to carry on the tradition of story-telling, but to relieve stress, anxiety and fear. So they know they aren’t alone and that they can find commonality in others. We need to listen to them, they’ll tell us their story if they feel safe doing so.