We’ve all got stories. Some are enlightening or uplifting; some are rude and great for a giggle. Others are dark, unsettling and upsetting.
It’s easy to share the funny ones, so much so we’ll make mental notes of who to tell. We make a feast of these stories over a bottle of wine at dinner, rehashing them long after their sell-by dates. These stories conjure up smiles as we reminisce over the aching belly laugh when shared with friends and family.
The dark ones, not so much. These stories are often buried away, distorted by time. Too often we’ve not even worked through the emotions that accompany these stories – we’re not sure what we think about them, how we’re supposed to feel about them. Questioning what is expected.
As much as we all love a good giggle, imagine how freeing it would be to cast our vulnerability to one side. To open up about our more grim tales of grief and loss, depression, anxiety, failure and regret.
Engaging with clients over their employee psycho-social programmes has helped to normalize these kinds of stories for me. It’s also provided me with a platform to be quite vocal about my own experiences. I’m bewildered at how we place one another on pedestals. There is the perception that our family, friends and colleagues don’t battle with mental illness, substance abuse, infidelity, financial woes and the like.
We’re human; we’re not meant to perfect. Sharing a story is healing and empowering for the storyteller. Still, it also provides hope and comfort to those who are listening. It leads to greater understanding, less stigma and also drives people to find help sooner rather than later.
Whilst we may not always have stories to tell, or in my case, the story has been told, we can actively listen to the words of others. Withholding judgement, offering instead, support and encouragement and acknowledging the difficulty with which it has been shared – because it takes courage to share such stories.