I went into my Faces of Fortitude session prepared to share my story, but I was not prepared for the reaction I got afterwards. I was pretty confident walking into my session, but unsure of what to expect out of this experience. Mariangela made me feel so comfortable, and sharing my story with her felt natural. I will be forever thankful for her passion and vision for this project. She just has a way of making people feel comfortable to talk about a subject that few are willing to talk about. I felt empowered leaving the session, and proud that I was able to be a part of something so powerful.

The first time I saw the photos I was in awe of how they turned out. I was so ready to share them on my social media for everyone to experience and learn about this wonderful project. I was not ready though for the reaction that I received. When the pictures and my words were posted I was overwhelmed with support and encouraging words from people. The comments on Facebook and Instagram were so positive, but what surprised me the most was my friends and family members reaching out to me to share their own stories of mental health struggles. It once again reminded me how many people are suffering in silence, and how just one person sharing their story makes people feel not so alone in this.

I was also amazed at how many people told me that they were there for me now if I ever needed anything or needed someone to talk to. When I reflected on those statements it took me back to being in my college dorm when all those suicidal thoughts popped up for the first time. It made me wish that I had reached out to someone then because I had people in my life I could have gone to, but chose not to. It also reaffirmed my desire to be a better support system for other people who are going through what I went through.

I had a really heartfelt conversation with my brother who was quite shaken up reading my words the day the photos were released. It was the first time we had ever talked about suicide and mental health, and it’s a moment that I think I will remember forever. I’m grateful that my participation in this project propelled that conversation with my brother that I think really needed to happen.

Since my session I self published my first book called Anxiety, Anxiety, Why Do You Have a Hold on Me which is a series of poems about my struggles with an anxiety disorder as a young adult. I honestly believe that being a part of this project helped me be more open to sharing my story and writing this book. It’s been over a year since my session and writing about it now brings me back to that time. When I think on it now it makes me want to still do more. I want to do more for myself and make sure that I am prioritizing my self care. I want to do more for my family and friends that need support. Lastly I want to do more for the mental health community and help destigmatize suicide so that everyone knows that they are never truly alone.