“There’s the story, then there’s the real story, then there’s the story of how the story came to be told. Then there’s what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too.” - Margaret Atwood, ‘Maddaddam’My past is a happy childhood, a difficult adolescence, and a resilient adulthood. As part of Embrace your Past month, I have to acknowledge what has come before.
As Margaret Atwood points out, one possess many stories. The real story, the lies, the perception of a true story... This month, I'm examining what my story is. If we can possess numerous stories, how do which one is the true one? And how do I tell my story in a way that's honest and all-encompassing?
When I think about my story, this is what needs telling:
At 14 I first self-harmed.
At 17 I took ‘sick’ days off school when I was too down to attend.
I struggled to study for my exams.
At 18 I tried to take my own life.
I was diagnosed with depression.
I started taking anti-depressants.
At 19 my medication dosage was upped.
I started weekly counselling sessions.
I began self-harming again.
At 20 I thought I was going to die.
At 21 I returned to counselling for a month.
At 22 I felt my self-harm ideation return.
At 23 I felt terrified that I was crazy and would be sectioned.
But my past is also this:
At 14 I sat my Junior Certificate exams.
I had my first kiss.
At 17 I was accepted into university after a successful interview.
I sat my Leaving Certificate exams.
At 18 I got into my university course despite not having studied for my state exams.
At 19 my medication dosage was lowered.
I became involved in mental health activism.
It was the last time I self harmed.
At 20 I realised that I no longer wanted to die; I wanted to live.
I won a President’s Award for my work in mental health.
I began to conquer my fear of public speaking.
At 21 I graduated from university.
I started my first job and gained life-long friends.
I met the President of Ireland.
I became a See Change ambassador.
I started my blog.
At 22 I graduated from my post-grad degree.
I gained my first full-time, fully paid job.
At 23 I visited Amsterdam, Copenhagen and London.
My story has many faucets to it. There are times of hope, and moments of despair.
We are not defined by the low moments. Life is ups and downs, highs and lows. Life is a learning curve. It’s what you make of it.
It’s your past, but also the future.
Read the rest of the Embrace Your Past series here.