The first time I wanted to share how imprisoning my mental health was, I didn't really know where to start. So I decided I would make a video, not think about it too much and whatever came out, at least it would be honest. I was at a point of desperation and didn't really have much to lose. This was nearly three years ago. It was shared by multiple publications at the time, including Time to Change. That was my first step into publicly speaking out about my mental illness.
Now that all this time has passed, I wonder to myself if it was the right thing to do, revealing all your weakness for the world to see. Then I look back at all I've done, all I've been through since then, and I truly believe speaking out was one of the best decisions of my life.
That first step, those first words, began a new age of understanding for me. Rather than focusing on hiding my condition in order to appear normal, exhausting my body and mind, I can ask for ask for support from those around me. I realised that I wasn't alone in how I was feeling. I often found that people echoed my exact thoughts, my exact fears and fought very similar looking demons. The solidarity from around the world was liberating.
Watch Faris speak out for the first time
I could end my story there but that wouldn't paint a complete picture. Despite all I've done, working in TV, radio and public speaking, all the surface stuff you can find out on your own by reading any of my social media accounts. I still struggle greatly. Things can still seem dire at times. One thing has changed though: I now have options; rather than dealing with it alone I have a multitude of avenues that I could use for help.
I've learned that I don't have to do anything alone and that no matter where I look, there is someone willing to help. I've been helped by people on the street, people in other countries, people online. For someone as jaded as I was, it was both baffling and heartwarming. It's all because of the confidence I have built from the day I spoke out.
Even with all the support I get, there is still a large percentage of nay-sayers. People who showed no understanding or any empathy towards my condition. People who have tried to put me down, sometimes literally.
One comment that sticks in my mind was left on social media in response to a short documentary I featured in. The message said "people with mental health illnesses should be put down like dogs."
I think the reason it stuck was because it was a stark reminder that there are still those out there with a distinct lack of understanding of mental health. That the stigma is as real as it gets and that the only way to fight it is through education. I feel a sense of sadness whenever I read such a comment but I also feel hope because I know that many can still be reached. The more minds open the less people have to feel alone with their mental health.
I dread to think about it, but on my own, I doubt I would still be here. Yet I am and I owe it all to the people around me and all the strength they gave me and continue to give me to this very day. The only way I can think of to thank all those who have helped me is to give it back to anyone who needs it.
The world may not know what you're fighting but I promise you you are not fighting alone. Look for the light in life and you'll often find it, look for the darkness and it's all you'll ever see. Speak out and your voice will carry, it will reach those with an open heart. They'll surely help you just like they helped me.