Blog

Jun18
2015

Why Your Story Matters

By Rachael Stevens

My story begins with my feet turning blue.

I felt cold, numb, and disconnected for so many years, but I never told anyone. When I looked at my discolored feet that day, I realized something was deeply wrong. I desperately needed to reach out to someone, but I couldn’t surrender my secrets. My life at that time was defined by dysfunction, abuse, and fear.

So I remained silent about my blue feet – until the day I collapsed at school.

I was 15 when I was unexpectedly taken to the hospital. They wrapped me in a hospital gown, placed me in a wheelchair, and gave me my first diagnosis: Anorexia Nervosa.

My case was severe. I was told I would most likely never recover, but the news got worse. There was also the possibility that the disease might kill me if I went into cardiac arrest. Acknowledging my mental illness was like having a sudden and thick fog that set in, robbing me of clarity. The future I had once imagined quickly vanished in the mist.

Anorexia felt like something separate from me, as if the disease was a person I was in a violent relationship with. She was cunning, determined, and manipulative; she was obsessive, powerful, and persuasive. She had this ability to twist reality and distort the way I saw myself. I hated who I was and how I looked. At that point in my life, death seemed like a better option than continuing to live confined in this internal prison.

I had a decision to make: Did I want to live or did I want to die?

In the hospital, I was forced to make a choice after a woman named Lisa shared her story about her battle with cancer. She gently explained that she couldn’t eat like me because of the chemotherapy she was undergoing for breast cancer.

Lisa told me that everyone has a reason to be alive. She said that everyone has some reason to get out of bed in the morning. And she explained, “I keep eating because I have hope. I am going to see my daughter finish primary school. You must have things that give you hope?”

That was when I started to cry. At that point in my life, I honestly wanted there to be nothing left of me because I believed that there was nothing of value worth keeping. Even though the situation felt completely hopeless, her words never left me.

Her life was one of sickness and struggle, yet as she lay in that hospital bed, she saw her story differently. She was not defined by dysfunction; instead she was full of hope, strength, and love for others.

She showed me that stories matter.

Her story changed my life; it became a beacon of hope in a dark time. When I was transferred to the psychiatric ward in the hospital, I constantly thought of her hope and the faith she had despite the fact she was dying of cancer.

In the psych ward I also discovered that there were other young people, just like me, suffering from severe mental health issues. Our stories mattered because we were fighting the same silent, misunderstood, and internal battle.

Our stories had similar themes of hopelessness and pain, yet I knew they could have remarkably different endings. And I believed that, if I recovered, I could use my story to help people see that their lives mattered. I could show them that they were valuable, had a purpose, and could recover.

Knowing there was purpose in my pain, I started to eat again. Eventually I began to imagine a different ending for my story, one that didn’t end in sickness, relapse, or death. After being discharged and undergoing years of counseling, anorexia left my life forever. Thanks to the support of a few incredible people, I was free.

I emerged from those years of my hellish battle with scars, but I also had a story of resilience and recovery.

Real stories are powerful because they give us evidence that things can change. They show us possibilities in impossible situations.

Now that I am fully recovered from anorexia, I share my story.

I speak in high schools and have written a book called “The Skeleton Diaries.” It tells my raw and honest account of battling to survive and recover from anorexia.

At first, I was terrified to share my story. I remember my hands shaking and nausea engulfing my entire body before I spoke. Despite my anxiety, however, I watched people’s lives change as the words began to tumble out.

Stories create openness and a platform to be honest, and personal stories reveal that we are not alone in our experiences. Through writing my book and speaking to audiences, I have discovered that stories really do matter.

In fact, your story matters.

Your story possesses the capacity to inspire courage. It can create change and compassion, transforming a culture of stigma and misunderstanding. Your story matters because it can give another person hope. Just like Lisa’s story gave me hope in the hospital, you have the ability to give someone a sentence that they clutch to in their darkest moments.

So be strong and courageous, share your story. Speak hope into hopeless situations…because your story matters.

You can read more about Rachael’s story here

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Comments (11)

  1. Margo

    Stories matter look at how your story has done ! Remember TED.Com the danger of a single story … There is so much beauty Rach and you capture it with elegance .. Go you wonderful person

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  2. Paige

    lovely. so proud of you ❤️

    Reply  |  
  3. yasmin

    changing the world one life at a time x

    Reply  |  
  4. Charles

    I feel like this has opened my eyes. All I can do is continue to cry. There are so many things that I need to do…. So many things I need to apologize for and so many people I need to apologize to…. This is how I have felt for so long… I know what I have done and I cant go back… I guess this is where it all starts… The change, the uphill battle, the wanting to help those who are in the place I am in…. I will say that I have lost a few friends to suicide… And I have tried it that fact is known to many…. This tells of how I feel and what I think each and every day… If you wish to understand me and people who are like me watch this… I am pleading to all of you…. Don’t let this be the end for someone who is like me and you know they are almost to that breaking point… Please for all of us… just be here for us…. and don’t let us regret our lives any further than we already have….. Please!! I am begging you all!! And I am pleading to those who are like this to remain strong. Cause we are not alone no matter how much we try to think otherwise we aren’t alone…. Step out of your solitude and be free… We aren’t alone… We can be free… and we don’t have to do it alone…. We can do this together. We don’t have to be alone anymore… I know its hard because I am the same, but don’t sink deeper than we already are…. I am where you are now and I know what you feel please we are all in the same war on the same side and I refuse to let anyone else die!

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  5. Rae

    My story begins as a little lost girl who couldn’t find a friend, we moved a lot and I was homeschooled so friends didn’t come easy, I tried to die but I wasn’t smart enough to and we didn’t have anything sharp enough too that I had easy access too.
    I was 10.
    I am now 32. I ____ again the other day, instruments are easier to find at my age. I learned I could live with the pain easier then a final solution and the pain took away my thoughts.
    I get hot, very hot, sweaters in summer mask my problem. I hate looking at my beautiful children and thinking they might ever find this as the answer to their pain, but I can’t stop. Someone found out once and asked me why I didn’t get help but every counselor says they have to report you if you are thinking of harming yourself. So, what do you do besides make excuses for the marks?

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with us.

      TWLOHA is not a 24-hour helpline, nor are we trained mental health professionals. TWLOHA hopes to serve as a bridge to help.

      If this is an emergency or if you need immediate help, please call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to the LifeLine Crisis Chat at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx“. We also have a list of local resources and support groups on our FIND HELP page. Please know that we also respond to every email we receive at info@twloha.com.

      Reply  |  
  6. Pamela

    thank you

    Reply  |  
  7. cattie

    This comment could not be shared due to the nature of the message.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      TWLOHA is not a 24-hour helpline, nor are we trained mental health professionals. TWLOHA hopes to serve as a bridge to help.

      If this is an emergency or if you need immediate help, please call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to the LifeLine Crisis Chat at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx“. We also have a list of local resources and support groups on our FIND HELP page. Please know that we also respond to every email we receive at info@twloha.com.

      Reply  |  
  8. Megan T

    Thank you for sharing your story I too struggle daily with my battle with anorexia and over exercising. I have had it all my life and now 42 worry it will never go away as I really still struggle. With your share and others it helps the ones that struggle in silence to not feel alone and to got give up to it. My best friend died 5 months ago from hers even with a normal BMI. I struggle daily to not give up as it’s so strong. Thanks for being so brave!!!

    Reply  |  
  9. Megan

    Thank you.

    Reply  |  
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