The Phoenix must burn to emerge- Janet Fitch
January 24th, 2014. That’s the day I burst into flames.
Did I ever tell you that I spent ten days in the “ Behavioral Health Unit” (Psych Ward) at Orange Regional Medical Center? No?
Well, there was a good reason.
See, I couldn’t just drop that in the in first article I wrote about my battle with depression and anxiety. What would you think of me? Why would you ever trust any career advice I have to give if you knew that?
The reason I’m sharing this now is that this past Monday, I attended a musical called We Have Apples with my mom that gave me the courage to disclose this secret.
It Started With A Hashtag
For the first year after I got out of the hospital, I was ashamed of my experience. It felt like a Scarlet Letter — like a burden to bear.
With that said, life wasn’t bad. I started to see success and growth in my ghostwriting career. I just felt like I had a secret about myself that I would always have to hide in order to pursue success.
In June of 2015, I decided to step out of the shadows of the ghostwriting world and make a name for myself as a writer. I landed a consistent paid gig with a up-and-coming career advice blog in the millennial space. I made a new Twitter account that I decided would be dedicated to following only people I didn’t know. If I was going to write about millennials, I wanted to get to know as many of my fellow millennials as possible.
Over the next couple of months, I began to grow my network of amazing people- millennials and non-millennials alike. One such millennial was Rachel Griffin.
I found Rachel when I noticed a Tweet with the #ImNotAshamed hashtag- a tag I later found out she started.
When I first followed Rachel, I noticed that she was working on a mental health musical titled We Have Apples. I was intrigued.
I spent hours digging through #ImNotAshamed, and was overwhelmed by the amount of positive Tweets revealing people living successful lives and having the courage to be open about their mental health conditions.
It was the first time since my hospital stint that I didn’t feel like I was defective.
Browsing this hashtag gave me the courage to write my first article on my battle with mental health, which was an article on Post-College Depression.
We Have Apples
Back in June of this year, I saw that We Have Apples would be premiering at 54 Below in New York City. Given how far I have come since my hospitalization, I knew that tickets to this show would be the perfect birthday gift for my mom.
It was my mom who had the courage to have me committed, and although I didn’t realize it then, I realize it now: I owe the moderately successful life I have now to that courageous decision.
The story’s protagonist is a woman named Jane who struggles with depression. It takes place in a psych ward, and the main characters are all fellow patients.
I was not emotionally prepared for the realness of this production.
As each character was introduced, images of the people I met during my hospitalization came flooding from the annals to the forefront of my mind. I knew these characters. Variations of them. Not only that, but I am one. In many ways, I am Jane.
There were many light-hearted, hilarious tunes in this show; especially so if you’ve experienced life at the Ward. But there were three songs in particular that stuck with me. These songs gave me the courage to finally shed the remnants of any shame I feel about my condition.
This song is sung by Jane, the story’s protagonist. Jane is a writer, and this song is about how she fears losing her ability to write in her quest to recover. As a writer who felt the same fear myself, this one hit home pretty hard.
Story Worth Writing
Dissatisfied with the group sessions offered by the Ward, the patients decide to start a group of their own- a writing group. There’s really nothing I can write to explain to you the power of this song. You just have to listen. One line that stood out to me is, “I find a freedom in words that you can’t exclude me from; for all those who’ve been silenced, I’ll be your drum.”
I’m An Apple, Too
This song is the final song of the production. It is sung by all of the patients, and its message is one of hope and encouragement to those living with a mental health condition. After all the ups and downs I shared with these characters, this song was the perfect culmination of their story.
There is something magical about music that lets it penetrate the barriers we create around our souls. It has the power to incinerate these barriers and ignite feelings we have tried to repress.
We Have Apples served as a final emotional release regarding my diagnosis and my experience with life in the Ward. I can finally say #ImNotAshamed and actually believe it.
Want to know more? Here’s what you can do:
● Head over to WeHaveApples.com
● Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachelGriffin22
● Read this write-up on We Have Apples in The Washington Post
● Browse the #ImNotAshamed hashtag on Twitter
● Watch this video: