For over twenty years I’ve done media interviews with very little nervousness. Sure, there is always some, but I usually felt fairly confident in them and most of the time don’t trip over my words. Recently that was different. I gave an interview to the amazing Lisa Laco at CBC Thunder Bay who wanted to talk about my blog and reasons for speaking out. She had reached out to me and I felt excited and honoured as she is an amazing advocate for mental health, having battled her own challenges. Both the day of and day before I was so anxious it was physically affecting me. After all I have done with public speaking, writing, and sharing my story one on one, why was I so nervous??
That morning I realized the answer to this question. I was worried about judgement. There’s a level of hiding that occurs when you speak to a small group or write and post on the internet. Doing an interview means anything can be asked and your response is recorded for all time. What if people didn’t understand the concept of what I was trying to do? What if I angered people in my life who heard me being so open about lots of ugly truths? What if it made me look weak? Those questions come from a place where shame and stigma still exist in relation to mental illness. I shouldn’t have to feel that way but those moments still come no matter what. Our society has come a long way but still has a long way to go.
If you have a physical illness and talked about it, no one would think twice about it. You would probably receive a level of empathy and support for your plight. Not so with mental illness. The reactions can be anything from anger to ignorance and that creates an environment which is dangerous for many. Men often bear the brunt of this in my experience as there is still much of our culture which perpetuates the myth that men need to be stronger and tougher and “suck it up”. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Strength comes from being vulnerable and showing your truth. That is what I try to do, despite the anxiety which comes with it. So judge away world….no matter what you throw at me I will never stop!