Dear Mila,

Guess what? You were not the only one reading my last letter to you. In fact, all of a sudden, it seemed like an incredible amount of people were interested in what I had to say to you. It was as scary as it was wonderful.

I went from feeling like no-one would care if I died to receiving thank you messages from strangers for writing my letter. Isn’t that strange? First my friends told me that they thought I was brave and how much they liked my writing. But then, all of a sudden, I received messages from people I hadn’t spoken to in a long time or didn’t even know at all.

And the most astonishing thing happened: as a reaction to my letter, people of all kinds and from all places started reaching out to me, telling me about their own stories. All of a sudden, it wasn’t that depression was the story-teller, THEY were. And stories they told me!

The world travelers who suffered from anxiety or depression their whole life and still managed to become impressive and magnetic people who devoted their lives to adventure.
The athletic suffering from a chronic illness with a usually very low life expectancy.
The women’s rights activist who used to suffer from low self-esteem and fought anorexia. Or the academic who proved that everyone can find their place no matter what your burden is.
People who all of a sudden fell into a dark hole of anxiety of depression without any previous trauma or incident, struggling to get their life back together, that had so suddenly fallen apart.

What had been just a letter from me to you, to get it off my chest, had become a motivation for those people to write to me and reveal themselves to me. Most I had never seen or met before. Many told me that it is easier for them to talk to me about it because they didn’t know me and they knew I wouldn’t judge. Which is not entirely true.. I did judge! I judged that all of them were incredibly brave humans who deserve someone to listen to them and understand.

I was so moved and overwhelmed with all the responses I got for that letter! As much as people are thankful for me writing it, I am even more grateful for their responses. It made me feel less lonely. For the first time in a long time I felt something like pride again. But most importantly, I was able to help! Obviously it didn’t have a big impact on each and every reader. But if just one person picked up a phone instead of a bottle of pills after reading it, or if someone felt lighter after telling me their story, it was a win!

Only through this did I realize how small deeds can help. How listening really helps. How many people are just waiting for someone to listen to them and how, by doing so, you may just safe a life.

In my online dating profile it says that I’m an “activist”. For a long time I thought I was just lying to myself. But now I realized that you don’t have to chain yourself to trees or throw paint at people’s coats to be an activist. As much as I’d like to do those things (I’d really love to throw red paint at all those fur coats!), I can’t right now. I am still limited by my body and my mind. But what I can do right now is listen and write and share my story.

As an adolescent and young woman I was always told not to reveal so much of myself, not to tell all my secrets. I was a talker and often confessed my most honest thoughts and feelings to everyone who would listen. They warned me that people would use it against me and try to hurt me with everything they knew about me. I didn’t understand.

And they did use it against me and they did hurt me with it. But you know what? That’s ok! I kept and will keep telling my truth, my story, my thoughts. Because I don’t want to live in a world where people have to hide their reality from others out of fear of being hurt. My story and my past are not something to be ashamed of. Neither are my thoughts. And therefore, there is nothing I need to be afraid of.

Mila, being vulnerable is ok! Sharing you story is important! Speaking your truth, your inside and talking about your experiences is crucial. It is who you are. If we all did, maybe a lot of people would feel less alone, less hopeless?

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity. 

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Novelist
Now this all sounds so lovely and candy-cotton-fluffy. But is it? No, it’s not. Reading my letter did not heal anybody from depression, anxiety or any other illness. Getting such wonderful feedback did not all of a sudden cure me from my depression or pick up the low self-esteem I have accumulated over the past 27 years. But it’s a step. Writing it helped me heal a bit more. Reading it and telling me maybe helped someone else heal just a little bit more, too?
It is now time for me to tell my story. I think it does matter, after all.
You will see that maybe I am not who you thought I am. But I hope you will love me, still.
Until the next letter
-A.
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