Tips to Help Share Your Story

Protect yourself. There are real pros and cons to telling your story in public. Decide what's right for you.

Ultimately, the choice to disclose is yours. You can write your story for yourself, share it with close friends and family, or open it up for the world to see. Only you know which path is best for you.

There are pros and cons to disclosing your experiences with mental or emotional illness. Below is a list of benefits and costs that you should consider before sharing your story in public:

Benefits
  • You no longer have to worry about hiding your illness
  • You can be more open about your day-to-day life
  • You may gain approval from others who better understand what you go through
  • You may find others who have had similar experiences to you
  • You may find someone who can help you in the future
  • You are promoting your sense of personal power
  • You are living testimony against stigma
Costs
  • Others may disapprove of your mental illness or your disclosure
  • Others may gossip about you
  • Others may exclude you from social gatherings
  • Others may exclude you from work, housing, or other opportunities
  • You may begin to worry about what others are thinking of you or think that they are pitying you
  • Future relapses may be more stressful because more people are watching
  • Family members and others may be angry that you disclosed

Be yourself. Good stories are personal. Use everyday language and write with first-person words like "me", "I", and "my".

Use concrete examples. Talk about

Concrete Examples help people imagine themselves in your shoes.
Two ways to talk about depression Impact
Concrete Sometimes I would get so depressed that I would lie in my bed and cry for three days or more Your reader or listener can clearly imagine being in bed for 72 hours
Abstract Depression is like a dark cloth causing utter sadness This is vague and difficult to make sense of

Be truthful. People distrust stories that sound too good — or too bad — to be true. Stick to what actually happened. That's where you'll find your story's power.

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Your Life. Your Story. You Make a Difference.

Faithful

Story by: Teddy Green


My name is Denise, and my son's name is Michael. We happen to be in the juvenile court system because Michael got into a fight in school. He hasn't been medically diagnosed with a mental illness, but he has some anger issues. It’s nothing major from another person around his age; however, it's there. Before this circumstance developed in our lives, everything seemed normal, as normal as any other household with a child who experienced anger issues. I thought our life was normal! Although Michael did have some issues consisting of anger in school, I didn’t imagine it would develop into this. As he got older, his behavior became somewhat more intense. However, as I look back his anger went deeper.

Michael is the last of my five children, and the youngest of three boys. He is twelve-years-old and a twin. He is a very bright child full of ambition; he’s very helpful, kind, and loving; and he loves sports, especially football. His grades range between As and Cs.  His teachers always spoke with him when he had an episode, and it would be a thing of touch and go basis. For example, he wouldn't understand something from the day's lesson, because his episode would take the teacher's attention away from teaching the class. If the teachers weren’t able to get things under control, they would call me, and I would speak with him. Most of the time, these methods helped. Michael had to realize school was not a place of play but a place to learn and then if time permits he could play.

Michael tends to struggle with anger more than other emotions. He hasn’t learned how to release the things that offset his anger. I've noticed that Michael doesn't like to be yelled at, and being yelled at doesn’t have to be much of any significance, even if he is wrong. Nor does he like to be accused as a liar, especially when he knows he's telling the truth.  When things of this sort began to happen, he shuts down and can be upset for most of the day. Sometimes I feel as though I’m walking on eggshells. I often pay attention to him and what causes his mood to change, and then I talk with him to help him understand the reason for his anger and how he can have a different reaction towards situations and people. I take a concern in getting to know each of my children and the things that interest them, which can help develop them as a person. Michael doesn’t have a hard time getting along with his siblings; he has mostly realized that they are girls and he has to play with girls differently.

It’s not just anger that he struggles with; he also has a problem with being told “No.” For example, he likes to go outside and play, but there are times I tell him no, and he becomes upset. Another problem is being immobile. I’ve realized he has to have something constructive to do to maintain a good attitude. When he is left with idle time he tends to disturb others; then it becomes a problem for everyone. I often explain to him that he has to learn how to deal with life but not let his emotions overtake the situation and weigh the cause and effect of his feelings if they get out of control.

Michael doesn't spend much time with his father and I believe that may play a big part in his development in this time of his life. I began to see anger issues with him during the earlier years of elementary school (1st and 2nd grades).

Out of my five children, Michael seems to be the one who’s most sensitive.  Sometimes I have to wonder if it’s because of the sensitivity I experience when I carried him during my pregnancy. I cried a lot. Michael does seem to be more tuned in to how I feel. The children in every neighborhood we’ve lived in are always at our house because they like to play with him. One positive thing I can say about Michael is that he doesn’t have a problem making friends.

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Michael is a natural at playing. Michael has played football for about two years. Now he really seems to be a natural at playing the game and the positons he plays. I always encourage him to play his best and to play for the love of the game and to have fun, not just when he wins, but any time he plays. It is what you make of it.

I believe sports are a way for him to cope with the way things are going with his life, especially since his doesn’t see his father at all. There were times when he asked me if he could talk with his father, and I said no because his father is not an encouraging person.  During Michael’s first year of football his father didn’t care to participate and to this date still hasn’t. He doesn’t even call to keep up with Michael, so with that I say no. I’m sure this could be something hard for Michael to except, but as I have said to Michael his father has to be willing to make a chance to get along more with me. His father is the kind of person that if he can’t get his way then everyone has to suffer, so I refuse to be a part of that kind of attitude. It wouldn’t be good for Michael to constantly see us argue, but I know things are going to have to change eventually so I continue to pray.

We often spend time as a family, praying at home and church, watching movies on television, going to the movies, theme parks, going out to eat, studying the bible at home or going to the library.

I am the seventh of nine children. It was sometimes rough for my mom. My youngest sister’s father lived with us also. I was never really comfortable around him. He always did things to make me uncomfortable, so I often left the house when he came home, and I wouldn't come back until almost dark. I never said anything to my mom about how I felt because I didn’t want her to be upset and then have to choose sides. As time went on, they eventually split up, and then I was able to tell about those times. I guess that’s why it’s hard for me to have a man in the house around my kids because not only do girls get taken advantage of, but these days gender doesn’t matter, so because of that experience I have to continue to protect my kids as much as possible. As I am raising them I teach them to be self- sufficient and self- efficient. They must take the initiative to do the right things and to be helpful to others. I want them to know that everyone has something they’re going through. I pray Michael’s father will eventually have a change of heart about how he and I get along, at least for the sake of our kids and decide to spend time with Michael. 

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Since the situation at hand has occurred (the fight at school and now court), we have become involved in an advocacy program called Wraparound Orange. Our sponsor’s name is Mr. Murphy, and he has really been helpful in showing us as a family how to understand our weaknesses and strengths as a family and as individuals as we’re going through the process of moving forward. At this time in Michael’s life, he is facing a lot of challenging things as he grows. His teacher says he has a tendency to be a leader, and I believe that to be true because he thinks he has to be responsible for his twin sister. There are times when she can make things more of a challenge for him, especially in school. Michael admires both his older brothers and loves his sisters deeply.

As we are learning how to move forward there are some people that don’t understand Michael's situation, and they have doubts about Michael and his situation. For example, my sister and her daughter trigger his patience and respect towards them. Also, there is our pastor, who is a positive leader in Michael’s life. He’s a track coach who at times can be too competitive with his words towards Michael. These words either make Michael’s day better or worse while practicing. For example, my pastor thinks everything is a competition, but Michael on the other hand, doesn’t mind competing but likes to have fun as well. He will go along with my pastor's competition for as long as he can stand it.

As I look back on my life I can say my mom was very loving and kind to everyone. She always gave to the homeless. If she saw someone in need, she did all she could to help them, and I see that I am much like her. I do as much as I can to help the needy and the oppressed.  I belong to a church that is an outreach ministry. We do much to help where help is needed, especially those families with children. My pastor tries to help much with children when time permits. He does praise dancing with the youth in my church. He also has a track team, which Michael and his twin sister is a part of. My income limits me on how much I can do for them, but I always teach them to be grateful for the things they do have, such as these opportunities at church.  I try to keep Michael busy doing positive things because it seems that if his hands are idle, so is his mind. Even though money is scarce these days, Wraparound Orange participates and helps as much as they can in any way they can. They’re always concerned about the wellness of the family.

I’ve come to realize as I live that even though bad things happen something good will come from it. As the word of God says, all things work together for the good of those who love Him, and knowing this, I love God and I know His hands are very much involved in the outcome of this. Having this happen with Michael has allowed me to see life in many different ways, but I hold on to the fact that if we seek God and all that is right, this is our way of acknowledging Him. I have made God a very big part of our lives. Personally I feel that if we as parents adapt to having God in our lives more, He will guide us to live a good life. Then we’re able to better teach our kids what’s right.

When I was a kid, my mom didn’t push church on me but the option was always there for me to embrace if I chose. She went to church, and I always saw her reading the bible, which helped me to become the believer I am now, even though I was slow at coming to God. Because my mom led by example in how she depended on Him in her everyday life, I made the right decision by turning to God. God teaches us to raise and teach our children in the best way, which is what’s right and as they learn from being taught what’s right they always remember those lessons to live a right life and look to God more for this. We are living examples of having faith. I could have gotten irrational about Michael getting in trouble, or who know what else, but I took it to God as I do everything and let Him guide me to guide my kids. At times I want to make decisions without God, but they never go right. So I look for Him more.

We’re not perfect parents. We didn’t come with instructions; however, we do have God and he does give us instructions on everyday issues in life. We just have to have the faith to believe Him and His word, but you have to read His word to know Him and what He says. I thank God for everything, even for what happened with Michael, because I wouldn’t be able to share my story like this. Even though we will have our ups and downs, we should never let anything get us to the point when we feel that life is hard and choices are even harder. We just have to remember we are all going through something, and some are going through worse than others but we all are going through. Know that nothing lasts forever and all things will pass so with having faith during this time in my life and down to nothing, God tested me with my  obedience. God finally showed me how faithful He is to me. I was asked to speak about God during a sisterhood meeting. After doing so, I decided to take a short breath of fresh air to collect myself, and while standing outside in thought, the Lord clearly spoke to me saying “When you’re down to nothing, God is always up to something.” The next day I got a call from the hospital about a job. I thank God for being able to share my life and the life of my kids. I hope and pray that my story can make a difference in someone else’s life.