Why I Choose To Be Vulnerable
(And wear my heart on my sleeve!)
It started with an innocent conversation in a dorm room and it snowballed into a peer support group that is now being replicated in New York. Obviously there were a few more steps in between, but this story is one about the power of vulnerability, and I hope you'll join me on that journey.
My freshman year was undoubtedly the worst year of my life. The combination of moving to a university 3500 miles away, ending a 2-year relationship with someone who I still consider to be the love of my life and the sudden death of my uncle from cancer lead to an already emotional 20 year-old becoming downright unstable. I completely lost sight of who I was, regularly convinced myself that no one liked me, and treated an innocent guy pretty badly just because I couldn't bear to be alone. All this would have been impossible to cope with were it not for a few good friends and counselling.
It was my mum who first told me to see a counsellor when she flew out to visit me. I toyed around with the idea but was terrified: didn't only "crazy" people go to counselling? Did I really need to see one? I threw it into conversation with my new friend and she gradually opened up to the fact that she had been seeing a counsellor for years. Hearing this made me reconsider my previous fears: it was the push I needed, and I'm so grateful for her support.
I tell most people that I go to counselling now, indeed I'm telling the whole internet! Why? Because maybe you need some help, maybe you've been toying with the idea but you need someone to tell you that it's okay, that it's good to seek help. I'm telling you, and I find the best way to do this is to be vulnerable with people.
When I am vulnerable with you, I am telling you that I trust you. I trust you to know something deeper about me, maybe something difficult. I believe you to be a person worthy of me sharing this side of me. I am also informing you that you can trust me. The information I have shared with friends and the support that they have consequently provided has helped me grow more as person than I thought possible. Often they too open up, and we can find support in a shared understanding. On World Mental Health Day I shared on Facebook that I had been suffering from panic attacks and several people messaged me to share their story and thank me for telling mine. It warmed my heart, and reenforced the good in what I've been trying to do.
This whole blog has been modelled on me being vulnerable with you, the reader, as a sign that I both trust you to respect me, and in the hope that I can help. When I tell you about my heartbreak, my self-care routine, even my periods and underwear, I do so in the hope that you can gain courage and inspiration for how to better your life or the lives of people around you. This blog is documenting my constant quest to improve mine, and it's working. I feel the happiest, healthiest, most self-loving version of myself right now, and it is in large part because I chose to be vulnerable and seek the help I needed.
When the counselling situation got a bit rocky out here there were a few of us students asking what we could do, and we settled upon the idea of a peer support group. Above good friend and I became instrumental creators of this group, and the university fully supported us in our endeavours. We are now planning to offer sessions where people can open up about their problems, and share information that says "we recognise that this is something the student body is struggling with". It is one of the most fulfilling projects of my life and every time I share difficulties I've faced and it helps someone going through the same I feel a deep sense of satisfaction. None of this would have happened were it not for that first conversation, the one that told me it was okay to open up about my feelings.
Being vulnerable is scary, and for some people it's harder than others. But being vulnerable has enriched my life more than I thought possible. So I urge you to try it with someone you trust, or maybe even someone you don't know as well. You don't know how people can help until you let them try.