I have been sharing my story now for the past 6 months with friends, patients, acquaintances and strangers. Sometimes it is the full story. Other times it is just small snippets, like I had suffered from depression. Just saying those 4 words, “I suffered from depression”, has opened so many doors of connection and conversation.
By opening up you allow yourself to be vulnerable, showing people that you are not perfect. Swinging these doors open not only leads to great conversations and connections, but in many cases it helps with healing.
Doing this has enabled me to get closer, build trust and connection to those with whom I am already close to. By opening up it gives other people permission to do the same. And that can be a game changer for them and you.
Recently I spoke at a small pre-symposium conference. There was approximately 250 people attending and there were a variety of speakers throughout the afternoon. We had a men’s panel comprising of 3 of us and we each gave a 10 minute talk. At the end there was a quick Q&A session. During that time I briefly mentioned I had suffered from depression. That was all I said.
Two days later the symposium was in full swing. A 1000 people were attending. During the break people were wandering in and out of the display area and the function room, which were adjacent to each other…so there was a bit of traffic around.
A gentleman stopped me and said he saw me speak 2 days earlier and mentioned that he also had suffered from depression. We chatted and we both opened up to the point where he started to cry. He spoke a about his journey and that of his brother and the tears just started to flow. He wasn’t embarrassed and he was able to release a bit of what he was carrying around (that obviously needed to come out).
At no stage did I feel awkward. I didn’t look away. I just put my hand on his shoulder to let him know I was there and wasn’t going anywhere. After a short time he composed himself. Said thank you and was really appreciative of our conversation. Over the weekend as we passed each other there was a smile of knowing and a gentle hello. We knew we had walked in each others shoes, even though it was only in a small way because our history was different. But there was now a mutual understanding, respect and connection.
Approximately 2 weeks later I had to approach a very close friend about some concerns I had for him. This was a pretty scary for me because even though we were good mates, we had never really talked about too much in depth before. But I knew this conversation had to be had for him. Not for me.
I wasn’t sure how he was going to react and if this may drive a bit of an awkward wedge between us. I confronted him about a couple of things, asked questions and probed a little. I then challenged him to make changes as what was happening for him and family was not positive from which ever way you looked at it.
As it turns out he was very receptive and was open to what I had to say. He took what I said on the chin and processed it in due course. Within 5 days he booked into a 3 and a half day intensive course to help him start to sore out his issues. And you have no idea how proud I am of him for taking that first step.
Sometimes it is scary opening up and sharing your story. It is even more scary when you have to confront someone that you think may need help. But what I have found is people want to share. They want to connect. They want to be out of pain and most of the time want help.
It is important to remember that by being vulnerable and sharing your story gives them permission to do the same and hopefully take another step forward in their healing process. Being vulnerable is one of your greatest strengths.
So even if it is scary, be vulnerable, be brave and...do it anyway!!!
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