A plea from the heart.

Things are really quite rubbish at the minute. I’m back under the crisis team and life feels incredibly tenuous and not very appealing right now. If/when I get through this I’ve got some cracking posts to write on all the shenanigans that’ve been going on, but for now I want to tell you about stories.

We all have one, a story that needs telling. I’m not talking about the funny tales we tell when we get together with our friends, as enriching and side-splitting as they can be. I’m talking about our story – the story of our life. I’m so sorry, I think I’ve just quoted a One Direction song.

To tell our story requires courage beyond our usual limits, especially for those of us with haunted pasts and shameful memories. To hear our stories can be difficult too, but it won’t last forever and you can get on with your life afterwards, so give us the time we need.

When we share our Story (intentional capitalisation) with you it’s a privilege. You are being trusted with our most fragile memories and the things that make us most vulnerable. We’re doing the emotional equivalent of tearing our chest open and showing you our still-beating heart.

So be gentle with us, respect our words and acknowledge our bravery. Let us know that you’ve heard us. You might even want to thank us for confiding in you.

Some things to not do – say nothing, contradict us, change the subject, minimise what we’ve shared. One definite no-no is to question our version of events and sounding reproachful when you respond is another tactic best avoided. I don’t want to feel told off for sharing the darkest corners of my life with you.

I’ve been looking into my Third Diary and that involves recalling things that have happened to me that I’ve kept buried away for years. They’re surfacing now and are at the root of my current crisis. They’re raw, so very painful and feel so big that I can’t get them under control. They’re eating me up from the inside.

To try and deal with the memories in my head – which often fast-forward into my present – means that I have to talk about them. I have to share with mental health professionals what’s going on for me and when I do, I’m taken to the limit of my existence, forced to feel a pain that goes way beyond anything I’ve ever felt before. So far I’ve shared my story with seven mental health professionals. One has responded with the care the situation deserved and another was OK and tried to help. Apart from that I’ve been met with silence, reproach and minimisation. It’s fair to say it’s not been helpful.

I know this isn’t my best writing, my head’s all over the place and I’ve not been able to sit and work for a very long time but this is important to me – and to many others so I hope you’ll pay heed.

When someone you know (or maybe you don’t know them at all) discloses something personal to you – if they choose to share their Story with you – remember to treat them with kindness and their words with respect. Treat the situation with the seriousness it deserves. See the person in front of you and then imagine that you’re holding a tiny, fragile bird in your hands because you pretty much are – although in this case if you let go for a second they’ll rebuild their egg shell around them and they might not try to come out again for many years. It would be an opportunity missed and a life reduced to a shamed, painful retreat.

Stories – they’re so very important. Sometimes they’re life or death. You never really know what’s going on for someone else unless they tell you. And if they do, please never forget what an honour it is to have them trust you with their life.

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