Sharing My Story So Others Can Share Theirs

I have social anxiety and though it’s actually improving now since I’ve started therapy, I’ve also noticed a thing where you can put me on a stage with a topic and I can talk people’s ears off while still making enough sense.

I think it has something to do with the fact that I had been exposed to public speaking since I was in middle school. I was forced into it and was never good at saying no so I was trained to do public speaking and was always able to bluff my way through my speeches despite not being able to remember what I’m supposed to say. I was later trained to be a debater and won many “Best debater” awards thence. Even in my first round of college, I was forced into the debate team for a year or so before I mustered up enough courage to quit.

In any case, since middle school, I’ve just been good at speaking in public despite my somewhat debilitating social anxiety. I was always able to bluff and pardon-my-language bullshit my way through things. That’s why I ended up being a teacher and loved every moment of it. I had a chance to just talk and people had to listen.

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Tonight, I was invited to a casual event on campus called the “coffee house” where other students are also invited to perform or speak as well. Tonight’s theme was “mental health awareness” in lieu of mental health awareness week. I was nervous about my speech because I’ve never spoken about mental health in front of strangers.

I was second to take the stage after an amazing acoustic guitarist. I have to admit, I didn’t prepare for my speech at all. I shouldn’t have mentioned it in my introduction but I’m always self deprecating to lighten the mood and prepare myself. Once I got into it though, the words flowed.

I quoted Glenn Close who had said that “it’s an odd paradox that our society which can now speak about many topics are still unable to speak about mental health” and said that mental health matters to us because 1 of 5 adults experience mental illness but 5 of 5 have mental health. I likened mental health to physical health and pointed out the fact that people so readily accept others’ physical illnesses but aren’t so ready to accept one’s mental illnesses. I spoke a little about my experience and what I was diagnosed with. I spoke of my amazing husband and his support while validating him publicly for the first time in our relationship. I told the crowd that it took me 7 years to realize that the best friend that I’ve been searching for my whole life have been there all along for me.

I also explained to the crowd that everyone thinks I look normal and fine but really, I struggle with my own version of depression – the irritation and anger, the feeling of being “hangry” all the time but no amount of food can change how I feel, the hopelessness and helplessness I feel all the time. I talked a little about the stigma and why I feel compelled to speak out about mental health. I told the people who were listening that I am now trying to get involved more on campus to raise awareness.

I also addressed anyone else in the crowd that could be facing mental illnesses that someone cares. It could just be one person but someone cares for them so they shouldn’t give up. That even if they only have one person who cares that they’re extremely lucky to have that person.

I then addressed the resources we have on campus that are invaluable and have helped me tremendously. I urged those who feel the need to seek help. I told them that if they’re afraid to speak to someone face-to-face that they can visit the website. I then thanked the student committee that made the night possible, thanked the crowd for attending and for caring about mental health enough to attend and thanked everyone for their time. I then said to end, that people shouldn’t feel alone and that it’s ok to not feel ok.

Overall, I felt like I was rambling. I felt like I was unfocused because my medication had worn off by then. I didn’t think I did a great job.

The applause was loud but I barely heard it as I walked back to my seat. It felt almost surreal. I couldn’t believe that I had addressed about 40 or so people tonight. I gave an important speech on an important topic but I hadn’t prepared for it. It was pretty dim so I couldn’t tell what people were thinking or what their expressions were like. It is both a blessing and a curse. Blessing because it didn’t throw me off my flow. Curse because now I’m left wondering if it was an effective speech.

When I got back to my seat, a classmate of mine who had turned up to support me – God bless her, we haven’t had much interaction except in class but she cared about me enough to come see me speak and support me – said to me, “That was unprepared??? Sure sounds really prepared to me!”. My husband who had also attended also said that I had the crowd enraptured, that everyone was very focused on what I had to say. He said that no one looked away at all through the entire speech.

I’m glad. As self deprecating as I am, I’m actually very happy to hear that people were listening. Even if I had reached one person, that’s good enough for me.

A few minutes after my speech ended, someone was reached. A girl came up to me, thanked me for my speech and asked me what she can do for her boyfriend who has ADHD and how she can support him the way my husband had supported me. I gave her some pointers about communication and told her how to clearly communicate to someone who has ADHD like me. I told her to forgive him for his lack of focus and messes around the home because he really isn’t doing it to make her mad. I also told her that despite that, it doesn’t mean that her feelings don’t matter. That both of them need to work together to have a harmonious relationship. I hope that what I had shared with her will help her.

I’m glad I shared my story. It wasn’t very specific though I did mention at one point that I was close to an attempt at suicide but it was specific enough to be relatable (at least I hope it was). In the future, should I be given another chance to speak, I’ll make sure to prepare better and to include more personalized information.

For now though, I’m just thankful for the people I reached. I’m thankful for the opportunity to speak and I’m thankful for this newfound passion of mine to raise awareness about mental health. I’m also thankful that I have found a new friend in my classmate. She used to be someone I just sat next to in Trig but after a 3-hour profound conversation with her tonight, I can see her being more than just another classmate.

Tonight has definitely been a night of small victories. Victories that in light of these past 6 weeks have been victories I desperately needed.

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23 thoughts on “Sharing My Story So Others Can Share Theirs

  1. mentalbreakinprogress says:

    BRAVO! 😀 (((hugs))) so freakin proud of you Jules! I knew you would kick ass up there! You’ve actually got me teary eyed here. This is more than a small victory my friend. I believe this is the beginning of many good things to come your way. The part about you acknowledging your husband’s support really got me choked up. I know what it’s like to finally be someone truly invested in your well being…and it can be scary at first…what a wonderful birthday gift for him! The difference between forced public speaking and public speaking from the heart…wow…I can only imagine how exhilarating that must feel. So happy and proud of you 🙂 (((hugs))) xo

    Liked by 3 people

    • JL says:

      Thanks do much, Cavelle!! And I really wish I had recorded it. Hehe… Thanks so much for believing in me though. Had you been here, you’d definitely be someone who is now my friend too!

      Liked by 3 people

      • mentalbreakinprogress says:

        Likewise! We are at least virtual friends! lol that seems to be the direction the world is going in anyway so I might as well embrace it lol

        Liked by 2 people

      • JL says:

        That is quite true. And you’ve been way more supportive to me than almost the entire list of my “real life” friends have ever been. You’re a truer friend than any of them will ever be! I’m fortunate!

        Liked by 1 person

      • mentalbreakinprogress says:

        I am honored to be your friend 🙂 I’m glad we have crossed paths and I can relate to finding more support our here in the blog world than in “real life”…for me, I will take true friendship in whatever form the universe would like to present it 🙂 xo

        Liked by 1 person

      • JL says:

        I quite agree! We can never be too picky. I found my husband online. We dated online before we got together. And we’ve been together 7 years! Real life is overrated. Lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      • JL says:

        Nice!! We had so many people against us because of the nature of our relationship. My own parents still don’t talk to me about the topic of marriage. They just ignored the fact that I got married and now seemingly “accepts” the marriage despite never having shown up at our ceremony or anything. But I rub it in people’s faces every year we have an anniversary. Lol. “oh, look where we are now… I remember people saying we won’t even last the year…”.

        Liked by 1 person

      • mentalbreakinprogress says:

        Oh trust me I hear you there. When I decided to take the plunge and move away to be with my now fiance…i had all kinds of backlash from people I honestly thought would have been the first to support my quest to be happy. So yeah if meeting on the internet wasn’t enough to make people frown…there was also the fact that my fiance is 18 years older than myself…at least in numbers lol mentally I think I’m a bit older than him at times lol…but yeah I was called a gold-digger oh and my favorite…my “best friend” at the time told me “good luck with your new meal ticket”…it was so hurtful that I was suddenly being viewed as this money grubbing bimbo or something…when in fact we are far from rich and don’t even care about that aspect …I foudn out who my true friends were when I made the move to be happy on my own terms…it’s a painful process but I make NO apologies for following my heart and my gut

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Liz says:

    Your memory for details and quotes is amazing. Felt like I was there again reading that. Since that girl afterwards sought you for advice, I think that is proof your speech was effective. And you got to help someone! I also didn’t know it was the first time you’ve given a speech on that topic. 🙂 go Jules! Breaking the stigma

    Liked by 1 person

    • JL says:

      Awww… Thanks Liz! I have poor memory where conversations are concerned but when it comes to details like what I’ve said in a speech and stuff, I think maybe because I was focused on it that I could remember a large chunk of it. I don’t know… I’m a paradox unto myself. I can’t really say one way or another how I am because I’m always contradictory in a lot of ways. Lol!

      Yay! I’m glad at least someone said something. That was really nice. I always have the fear of being irrelevant.

      Oh and thanks for reading!

      Like

  3. Hi Jules, this is Shine…I have read about you through Cavelle’s post. You are really a very talented, strong and blessed woman! 🙂 I really admire that despite feeling you are not worthy, you are able to see the good things life had given you. I admire that as a teacher you are able to build young minds, you have a natural talent as a public speaker, you speak from the heart I believe that is why even if you are not prepared you have captivated your audience and able to reach someone. I have never done public speaking and I know you need tremendous strength to overcome stress and nervousness in order to do it. Kudos to you! With your words you are able to reach and help people…God and your husband I firmly believe gives you strength to do it. Keep the faith! God bless 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • JL says:

      Hi Shine, wow, thanks so much for your kind words! Thanks for reading and following my blog too. I’m amazed that what started as just a place for me to rant has become so much more. I’ve always wondered how God wants to use me in this world and I’ve always felt like I’ve just been a waste of a life. Now it seems clear to me that perhaps this is what I’m meant to do. To reach people who are mentally ill and to advocate for those who can’t.

      Thank you so much for your faith in me. I have little of myself but I’m learning to overcome that. I’m definitely fortunate to have been pointed to Cavelle and to others like you and her on this blog. It has made me realize that anyone can share their stories and be heard! And I also recently realized that God has been there through this all and I’ve just forgotten Him.

      Anyway, thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

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