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Now More Than Ever … Tell Your Story

Last month, Jasmine told you the story of how our Cypress name and logo came to be. She talked about how we got really nerdy about trees and how we went back and forth for hours on the subject. And that’s all true – even if it’s a little embarrassing about how focused we can get on trees!

But there’s another reason why the Cypress name means a lot to me personally.

During some of the darkest times in my life, I lived on Cypress Street. I was going through a lot at the time and was battling depression – something I had battled before but had never really understood. All of the things we talk about in Mental Health First Aid training were relevant for me – I found it difficult to do things in my life that brought me joy, I began to isolate and I didn’t believe I would get out of it. There are whole gaps in my memories from that year that tell me now how dark it really was.

And … I refused to ask for help from others. I had it in my head that I was “supposed to be stronger than this” and that I was “lazy.” I had all of the self-stigmatizing thoughts we talk about in our workshops. I remember thinking to myself “you just have to try harder.” And because of that, I wouldn’t tell anyone that I wasn’t okay. While I tried really, really hard to act like I had things under control … the truth was that I was struggling. And on top of that I felt ashamed; like I had let myself and others down by “letting myself get to this place.”

Part of why I wanted to name our project Cypress was because I wanted to help build a program where people wouldn’t feel as alone as I did back then. I wanted to fight the stigma that kept me quiet when I lived on Cypress Street. I wanted to help others know how to reach out to someone to let them know that it’s okay to not be okay. I wanted to help build a team that promoted the message that we can feel better, and we can ask for help. I wanted to fight back against that Cypress Street darkness and hopefully, spread a little light instead.

March is Women’s History Month and too often women’s stories have been kept from us. Certainly this is true in schools, but it’s also true in life. Women try so hard to be strong, capable and persevering that we can often forget that real power lies in our stories of vulnerability. Power lies in telling the stories of our mistakes, our failures, and our struggles as much as our joys, our achievements and our triumphs. When we tell our stories, we give other people permission to do the same. We make it easier for someone to ask for help when we tell a story of a time we needed help.

So yes, the Cypress name and logo is about a tree and its inherent resilience and how it supports that resilience through community. All true.

But for me, it all goes back to Cypress Street. It’s a reminder that if we can be brave enough to tell our stories – even our tough ones - we can change the world and maybe help others who currently feel alone.

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