The hardest part of walking the road of recovery, for me, was trying to navigate how to live out my truth while being authentic and transparent with those around me. There is always that feeling in the pit of my stomach that once I share my story people will see me differently. This is the reason why so much of the work that I do is aimed at breaking down the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness. Those of us who struggle with mental health issues are not any less worthy of authentic relationships.
There is something to be said about finding a place in the world where you can feel accepted, loved, and appreciated for being exactly who you are. Without the need to sugar coat your life, to make those around you comfortable, there is freedom in being bold with your truth. I am so much more than a mental illness and an addiction, so much more than just a person walking through recovery.
And I thank God for the Out of the Darkness Community, because I truly feel like I have found my safe place in the world. Five years ago, I started my first journey with the Overnight Walk, and this whole new world opened up for me. In the space of 18 miles, strangers become friends, stories become woven together, and hope is renewed.
It has always been a struggle for me to let down my walls, I am usually very shy at first, but when I am at an Out of the Darkness event, that all falls away. I know that there are others in the crowd with stories that look like mine, and others that do not, but I know we are all united for a cause greater than ourselves.
Last year I arrived in Dallas alone and by the end of the weekend I had connected with so many beautiful souls. This last month has been so full of life, because I have been sharing it with the friends I made last year. I cannot even put into words what these friendships mean to me. And believe me when I say that I feel abundantly blessed to know these amazing people.
To my amazing friends, thank you for letting me be a part of your life and story as much as you are a part of mine. Thank you for allowing me to be the most authentic version of myself possible. Thank you for all the laughs that make me feel like I will never be sad again. Thank you for the adventures and memories that we have been creating. Thank you for creating a safe space in this world for me. Life hasn’t always been easy, and friendships haven’t always been real, but I know that with all of you, and this community, this is as real as it gets.
We are in this together.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.