Welcome, everyone, to This Place is Yours. I truly hope it does, in some way or another, become yours. I didn’t create it for myself, or for my friends, or for anyone in particular – I created it for you.
Seeing as it’s launch month, things are understandably a little hectic. The site went live last week, the books arrived on Friday (!) and we’re preparing for a very big launch event on May 26. It’s all extremely exciting and beautiful, but also a tad overwhelming. For some obvious reasons, some not.
I suppose the launch of this project is in some way another layer of my rebirth. And although it feels awesome to be so enamoured with my work, I am still very much grieving. Grieving other people, and grieving the person I was before I lost them. Some days are good, some are okay. Others aren’t at all.
Right as I pushed “live” on the Pozible campaign to launch this project nearly one year ago, I was thrown into the absolute worst experience of my life. I cannot release all the gory details just yet, but essentially, within a matter of three months, I had lost my entire family – mother, brother, cousins, you name it – a friend or two, and one best friend who I considered my real family. Such massive loss truly shattered me, and, of course, I had no idea what to do with it. I still don’t, to be honest.
Sometimes, I hate looking in the mirror because I see them looking back at me. Sometimes, I miss people so much it feels physical, like a stab wound that won’t heal. And I guess you can’t escape the past simply because you changed your name and got a giant phoenix tattoo on your sleeve. Such dramatic moves have somewhat helped the transition, but they cannot erase the fact that it had to happen.
It was of course a little bit ironic that I had been building a storytelling project for mental health the entire year prior to this all happening. There I was, going around talking about how storytelling saved my life, and then I needed it to save it again. And I started to realise that I will probably always need it to save me.
I started writing through my pain when I was in my adolescence, and I returned to it nearly a decade later during my first proper nervous breakdown at the age of 25. At the time, I had just recovered from my first great set of losses – my grandmother passed away and yet another best friend essentially told me and my depression to go fuck ourselves – and blogging helped me through it. But when the crisis of a year ago hit, it was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
And so I had a rather public meltdown all over Facebook and my blog, which didn’t exactly help, seeing as Facebook is possibly the fakest social experience in the universe. Blogging did help, to a degree, but I was after something people simply couldn’t give. What I needed could only come from within me.
Eventually, I turned off my social media, shut off my blog (for many reasons) and went into hiding, kind of. It was, quite literally, just me and my notebook (and my husband, and my dog) for a good few months. When I resurfaced, I had gained something I never had before.
Writing through this experience hasn’t made the pain go away, or even 100% manageable. What it has enabled me to do is transform through it, to grow in ways I have truly needed to. Through blogging, I have made connections that would have previously been impossible, and in them I have found solace and camaraderie. Most of all, writing, blogging, and creating have enabled me to embark on a journey towards self-love. It will be a long one, but I am on my way.
This project is for you to share any and all of your experiences so that you, too, can embrace the sacred power of creativity, and I would be most grateful if you shared your vulnerable ones. Because the fact is, we don’t have it all together, life is not perfect, and quite evidently neither are we. But when we can connect on that level – the one where we stop pretending, where we start being honest and we start getting real with one another – I honestly believe that is when we can begin to build the kind of community every one of us needs. And we may not be lucky enough to find it every day in the real world, and we certainly cannot find it in 140 characters or less. But I hope, one day, we can at least catch a glimpse of it here.
As I said, I pretty much have no answers. I am no authority on healing or writing or storytelling, for that matter. I have so much to learn, and I do not have a magic potion to make your pain go away (if I did I would be much, much wealthier, or in rehab). I just hope that your creativity will start to show you that maybe your pain is here for a reason. Maybe your pain will take you to where you need to go.
My pain took me to this project. If I hadn’t gone through what I’ve been through, this project would not exist, and I am one of those people lucky enough to truly adore what I do. There’s a yin and a yang to everything in this life, and although I cannot say I don’t sometimes wish things were different, I am grateful that I can get through the fact that they’re not.
We all can.
I hope you will become a part of this project, and share your story, too.