Speaking Up

IMG_4105It’s funny how I could go for years without talking about this to anyone.

Eleven years before I told anyone at all.

Thirteen more years before I helped a friend through her journey and realized I needed to share a bit more, to be open and vulnerable in order to help her feel less alone.

Another year before I got incredibly, righteously angry at what I was still hearing from well-meaning people within the church about how to treat mental health.

And another year still before I finally spoke up.

Two nights ago I spoke to a group of Christian teenagers about my story.  About my anxiety and depression and isolation.  About my relationship with God and my fear that my mental health was an indication of my lack of faith.  About the second layer of stigma that exists within the Christian community and how important it was that we break through that.

I told them that God loved them, that they are worthy and lovely and loved.  And that they don’t have to fight this alone, that there are people who will help them, who will walk along side them with love and compassion.  And that therapy and medication can be ways that God provides to help them heal.

I asked them to be brave.  Not for every minute of every day, but just for the 30 seconds it takes to reach out to someone.

Honestly, I probably rambled.  Speaking aloud in front of people is something I try to avoid.

I called my husband about 10 minutes before I got there, teary eyed and panicking that this was absolutely a terrible idea.  “Julia.  This is it.  This is why you went through all that.  If you can help one kid, can you imagine what it would have meant to you to hear this when you were that age?  You can do this.  It’s going to be fine.  Go.  I love you.”

It felt important to speak up.  To let them know.  To help make sure that no one else feels like they have to walk through this alone.

There were some red-rimmed eyes, and small nods as I talked.  And some shy smiles as I saw them the next day.

And a single “Thank you for talking.  I know that had to have been hard, but I appreciated hearing it.”

And if that single thank you is all I ever hear, if that one kid remembers my story at some point when he needs it, then speaking up is worth it.


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