At the beginning of the spring 2016 semester, one of the registered student organizations or RSO’s held an event in our campus center building on the open first floor terrace. They were open to the public and asking a thought-provoking question: Where do you see yourself in four years?
You would then write on your open palm in Sharpie your answer and they’d take a picture of it and add the photo to their stand, lined with other people’s answered photos.
This is what I had said:
In four years time, I wanted to be sharing my voice. I wanted to give a TED talk about my mental health experiences. I wanted to share my story about my mental health issues and my recovery journey. I wanted to create some platform in real life to spread mental health awareness and I wanted to create a similar platform on the Internet for the same reason. I wanted to be courageous and strong and human. To be imperfect and vulnerable and an inspiration–an inspiration to inspire others to share their own voices and recognize that they, too, have a story worth sharing.
I can genuinely say, four “years” have gone by extraordinarily fast. In four months, I’ve managed to achieve some of these goals. So, in four years… I can only imagine what more I will be able to accomplish–and that’s very, very exciting.
I had the courage to seek out this opportunity and many of the opportunities I was presented with this semester by a 365 daily prompt book called “How to Achieve Anything in Just One Year” by Jason Harvey. I would do a series of the prompts within the same day until I had a good bucket filled with them and would do the same the next day. Of course, life got busy and I’ve gone stretches at a time without filling in the prompts… however twice now I’ve gone back to it, and I don’t imagine that changing any time in the future (I may especially turn back to it over the course of this summer as it will give me inspiration, ideas and strength).
There were a series of prompts at the end of January and beginning of February that I did all involving opportunities. The prompts begin with a quote and then go into a short description and the task at the end for you to fulfill. The ones about opportunities encouraged seeking them out and utilizing them to the best of their ability, without fear of what may or may not come of it.
That gave me the courage and the inclination to reach out to the opportunities to share my voice this year. I reached out to the director of recovery at the counseling center on campus to discuss any way I could get involved to help promote recovery and mental health awareness on campus…. This panned out to restarting the Active Minds chapter on our campus for the fall 2016 semester.
I reached out to this RSO and had to think up a goal and dream for myself, right there, on the spot. And I followed through on it, instead of walking away as I had been doing previously to get on the bus. I spent time there, voluntarily, to seek out the opportunity. And from there grew all the work I did in these last four months.
I reached out to NAMI-Mass about In Our Own Voice presentations….Now I’m an IOOV presenter. Still a novice at it, but sharing my story with a variety of audiences across the state. Opening up my vulnerability and what I’ve been through to help inspire others or spread some awareness of what it is like to live with a mental illness.
I reached out and got to go through a leadership course Active Minds was holding for six weeks. That’s gained me further experience I can utilize in my future (and mention on my resume!).
I reached out and wrote articles in the Mass Media, the first discussing word choice and stigmatization, followed by a series of articles that I loved writing and that gave me a sense of purpose and meaning. Not only that, but sharing advice with others kept my own words in my mind longer. Let alone, maybe someone out there reading is being helped through their hard times.
I reached out and may be able to do a directed study next semester. I’m actually still in the process of reaching out about that.
I reached out and am going to attend the Breakfast for Hope at Samaritans. I want to reach out farther to become a crisis line volunteer.
By reaching out I got to go to an event Active Minds hosted on the Tufts University in Medford campus about sharing your mental health story. I got to play around with that and have some experience of opening up and seeking guidance for work I could then transfer over to NAMI and further towards my own TED talk I want to give in 2018.
By reaching out I got to attend our introductory meeting with the Active Minds representative to discuss what Active Minds is and all the ways we can help spread mental health education.
By that, I got to meet Craig, our campus’ health and wellness promotion specialist.
And through that, I am paving my way to being on the front lines next semester, getting resume building experience, meeting people I may never have met otherwise (awesome people, too, by the way), I am moving forward further and further in ways I’ve only ever dreamed of in the past. Now, I get to actually live it, and that is amazing.
One of the points I’m getting to now is, Craig runs this nonprofit organization with his partner Katy where survivors of a variety of topics can share their stories at their website anonymously or not and also get a painting featured with their story.
As May is mental health awareness month, I recently shared my mental health story (or, well, part of it) and it went up yesterday. I don’t want to repost it here since it’s all over there, so if you do happen to have the time to read about 1,500 words of mine, you can check it out. Or save it for later. Or not, I certainly wouldn’t know!
You can even see the AWESOME painting that Craig made for me which I shall be hanging up on my wall over the weekend and is my new wallpaper background on my phone. Here is what the painting looks like (because you seriously have to see it!)
Basically, what I’m saying is, in four months I’ve managed to create a revised version of myself. The aid of friends, family, treatment providers and various sources of inspiration all helped and impacted that process.
Additionally, reaching out through my Mass Media articles gave me the courage and openness to reveal my name, Raquel Lyons, onto my deviantART account (links to are in this mental health story post above and in my About page), an account I’ve had for six years under the signature of HMD. (Which I still and likely always will sign all my artwork as).
Now, that led me to this blog. Where again, I’m sharing my mental health story and aiming to just promote recovery and the awesome bragging rights that come out of recovery and just coping positively and trying to be as well as we can even though we will slip up and have hard days, too. I want this place to be open and honest, just as I am in real life, too. That means naming the ugly sometimes and rushing through the waves of the tumultuous sea when they arrive.
And doing so, getting through that, together.
But, um, I’ve written quite enough for this post!! I hope you’ve managed to make it through this lonnnng reading (if you’ve seen my DA journals I am a stickler for writing a LOT) and I hope that you are doing well and are being safe. And if you ever need a thing, feel free to message me. Write me down as a list of someone to contact if you ever need it. I’ll do my best to be there for you and encourage you. And probably give you unasked for advice, it’s in my nature!
Thank you so much for reading and for joining me on this journey!!! I’ve gotten 33 followers now and that is so amazing! Thank you all SO SO SO much!! ❤ ❤ ❤ I hope you gain something from my rambles as I seem to be getting from them as well.
I’m sending you love and warm wishes!