Several months ago, when TedXPeachtree co-organizer Jacqui Chew asked me if I’d consider doing a talk based on my own experiences with depression and mental illness, my initial answer was a clear and resounding
That was a knee-jerk response rooted in one thing: Fear.
I’d blogged about the topic once or twice and had some spontaneous conversations with a few people online about our various experiences. But a TEDx talk? To an audience of several hundred people in person and several thousand more online?
That was a different story. So here’s how it went down.
Being the change you want to see…
I talk an awful lot on this blog about change. About the importance of learning to navigate it, and perhaps most importantly, being the person that can and does spark it in your own world.
Mental illness is something that’s touched me personally — through my friends, my family, and my own experiences. But I hate how it’s talked about, or rather not talked about, in the world at large.
Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dozens of other mental illnesses. They’re terribly stigmatized. Which means that people don’t talk about it, don’t ask for help, don’t get treatment. Because they’re afraid. Afraid of being judged.
That fear was exactly what was keeping me off that stage.
So I said yes.
The philosophy of TED and the associated TEDx events is “Ideas Worth Spreading”. It’s an honor to be considered to grace a TED stage, and frankly it’s been a professional goal of mine for a long while.
I just never thought it would be telling such a very personal story.
I think shattering the stigmas around mental illness is an idea worth spreading. I think the fact that mental illness is something that many millions of people live with, every day, is worth talking about, loudly. I think that if just one person speaks up, gets help, or helps someone they love because they feel less alone after hearing personal stories like this, it was worth every moment of nervousness and trepidation I felt before I stepped onto that big red X.
The response has been nothing short of overwhelming. Thank you in advance for giving of your time and attention to listen, and if you feel so inclined, to share and spread the message that we cannot stay silent.
Here’s the talk I gave at TedXPeachtree on November 2, 2012. Special thanks to Jacqui, Al, and the entire TedXPeachtree organization of volunteers and sponsors for welcoming me and giving me the platform to share.
So now what?
After the tears, the hugs, the new friends and the outpouring of support after this talk, I knew I couldn’t just let this be something I did and then walked away from.
So, in the next few weeks, I’ll be launching a new blog called The Mind:Share Project. It’ll have many contributors, and the goal will be to talk openly, honestly, and bravely about life with mental illness and break through the stigmas we’ve created. You’ll hear from people who live with these diseases themselves, and the people who have been touched by it through people they love.
It’s my way of being part of the change I want to see in the world, using the platforms I know best. I hope you’ll stay tuned and join us there in the coming weeks.
I can say little that would mean more to me than simply thank you.
To the friends and family who told me it was not only okay to go out there and do this, but necessary. To each and every one of you for reading, for listening, for supporting this blog and my venture at SideraWorks, for being the kind of people that do go out and change things.
Thank you, thank you. It was my honor to share this with you and I am eternally grateful for the chance to make a difference.