Own your story first, before you can tell it

I watched the speedometer go from 60-90 mph climbing within seconds.  I was in the car with my sister in 2009.  It was nighttime and I was terrified.  Sis was in her manic modes.  Life had changed for me that day.  I got on the phone to tell a close friend about what happened and he immediately said go to a therapist.  The thunder in his voice was so pressing so urgent that I heeded his advice.

I not only went to therapy on dealing with my sister’s bi polar episodes, but also looking at my own self.  I had stuff to work on that I never knew existed.  I thought when you go to therapy, it’s cuz some traumatizing event brought a person there.  And then there is ownership of your own shit.

I was taking Basic Film Production classes at a community college and when it came to the Documentary filmmaking class, I thought the perfect topic to talk about and to heal from was dealing with mental illness in the family.  I began to tell my story.  I told it, and put it away, told it and put it away.  I wanted to throw out the damn project out the window altogether.  It was years of personal work that I put in plus support from my friends that I continue telling my story.

It was never easy.  As I run my fingers across the keyboard, I find it a bit easier to not have anxiety in telling my own story.  I am close to being finished with my five year project, Web of Guilt: The Documentary.

There were so many messages both cultural and the stigma that comes from admitting and even discussing a family member who has a mental health issue.  But in order to break down those walls, stories have to be told.  People have to talk more openly about it.  There has to be more of an awareness.  And by having that awareness, there is ownership, and when there is ownership, the other stuff like guilt, and shame go away.  That is when you can tell your story.

I mustered the courage of telling my story in my journal, my films, my poetry and even through social media.  This is how people heal.

–Michelle

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