IF WE HAD A SUPERPOWER IT WOULD BE TO EASE EMOTIONAL PAIN
In a world of mental health conversations, there are a lot of stories of trauma.
Loss, stigma, discrimination, pain.
We can get so caught up in trying to stop our emotional trauma that we don’t take the time to think about how much we’ve grown.
That growth can be something as small as getting up in the morning, making yourself a cup of coffee, or having the energy to eat a piece of toast.
We want to change the conversation.
Better Because Collective is a platform for storytellers that allows us to share our journeys to post-traumatic growth.
And that’s what we believe storytelling does. Our shared experiences let us know that we are not alone.
That there is always hope, even if it is in the smallest of things.
We want you to be encouraged and empowered to celebrate what’s wonderful in your life. To know that the things we’ve been through can actively make our lives better not in spite of the storms we’ve weathered, but because of them.
We’re here to celebrate our successes, to provide hope and inspiration to one another, and to recognize our achievements.
No story is too small or too big to share. Whatever you’ve been through, we want to hear how you survived it and what you’re celebrating today.
You never know — what you share may just make a crucial difference in someone else’s life.
A journey from trauma to post-traumatic growth
On a sunny winter afternoon in January 2019, a few simple words sparked the beginnings of Better Because Collective.
Rebecca Massie, our founder, and two fellow advocates at the Mental Health Association of San Francisco (MHASF) sat in a conference room above San Francisco’s Market Street. They recounted their journey through the mental health system, trauma and all, as sunlight poured into the room.
Despite the pain, their stories concluded on a positive note. The advocates repeatedly said, ‘I’m better because.’
They knew that, at times, their pasts were filled with trouble and pain, and they knew their journeys weren’t over yet, but they made it through the worst and survived.
Rebecca’s mental-health-related experiences, both good and bad, led to her gaining much-needed skills. She learned how to apply dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) skills to daily life. She recognized what her strengths were and then discovered how to use those merits to work around her weaknesses. She came to realize she was the ultimate expert on her mind and body, and the ultimate specialist on her needs.
Although she didn’t know it at the time, she was collecting the experience needed to found Better Because Collective.
In a way, Rebecca’s life had set the stage for Better Because Collective in the mid-2000s. Throughout a series of traumas, Rebecca found herself frequenting an online forum that was littered with unhealthy coping mechanisms.
“I didn’t actually think about it back then, but looking back, those stories of trauma and pain didn’t serve,” Becca said.
She was consuming stories focused on stigma and trauma — stories that ignored how people survived their lowest lows. And she couldn’t handle it anymore. Becca longed for words of encouragement. She wanted to learn what people did to survive and, ultimately, what they did to thrive.
It took Rebecca a while to “pick up the pieces.” It’s difficult, or maybe even impossible, to pinpoint the exact moment when recovery started. But if she had to choose, it began when she was around 29 years old during a stay at a comprehensive treatment center. She spent six hours recounting her life story during a narrative therapy group.
In turn, Rebecca discovered she was more broken than what she had thought was possible, she said. Yet taking the time to tell that story opened up the next chapter of life — one marked by transformation.
Rebecca realized her story could empower others. She eventually trained to be a public speaker at MHASF with their “Sharing Our Lives Voices and Experiences” program (SOLVE).
According to Rebecca, Better Because Collective wouldn’t exist without the skills she gained as a SOLVE speaker. During training, “I realized that I could tell my story however I wanted.”
For the first time, at 33 years old, she felt she could take charge of her own life.
“When I first started to share my story, I felt like my past was finally serving a purpose,” said Rebecca, “to help people avoid the pitfalls I fell into headfirst, to show others how I learned to thrive, and give them the option to apply what I learned to their lives.”
As she worked on her own recovery, Rebecca felt called to help fellow survivors gain a similar sense of agency in their lives. So on January 2, 2019, while sitting in that MHASF conference room on Market Street, Rebecca founded Better Because Collective.
That same week, she put out calls for stories in mental health-related Facebook groups. To Rebecca’s surprise, a peer provider in Atlanta quickly acted on her request, sourcing dozens of submissions for the fledgling organization. It took time to gather volunteers to help publish and edit the stories, but by mid-2019, Better Because Collective published its first story.
What started as a small, one-person passion project quickly grew beyond Rebecca’s abilities. Rebecca couldn’t undertake this endeavor on her own. She never dreamed it would become a nonprofit. After all, she had no experience running a publication, let alone a nonprofit organization.
As more stories poured in, she knew the organization had potential to grow. But she needed help. Rebecca managed to find committed volunteers who undertook pivotal tasks, like building web pages, managing social media accounts, and editing stories. To her surprise, these volunteers have dedicated countless hours to the organization.
And with their help, a simple passion project became so much more.
“It’s not a project. It’s a collective, we’re all building this together for the greater good. And I’m kind of in awe,” Rebecca said.
Better Because Collective wouldn’t exist without our contributors, readers, and volunteers. Your support has given our platform a chance to empower others. We hope you’ll take a moment to read the stories our contributors have graciously shared with us, or maybe even submit your own story of why you’re ‘better because.’