I did not think I would be writing a blog post about speaking at an event about mental health. What a surreal experience. This year has been the year of growth for me.
Earlier this month I spoke at SAIE Break The Stigma: The Winter Soiree.
SAIE is a much needed “organisation dedicated to deconstructing the existing negative social Stigma around mental health in African & Caribbean diaspora intergenerationally”
Speaking about mental health in general is a relatively new thing for me. Even talking about my own mental health is something I haven’t really done before. It was the beginning of this year that I wrote my Is This Anxiety? post.
A scary topic for me, like I expressed in my ‘Is This Anxiety?‘ Post I have always felt like there was something going on but I put it down to being my personality. The lack of knowledge on mental health meant I had no clue what it was that I was dealing with. Trying to fit in, figure out who I am, avoid bullies and battle anxiety was difficult for me. More so internally than anything, externally I was fine, I looked happy and was always laughing.
I agreed to share my story and discuss my journey with a large amount of new people, because I knew if I declined I would continue to say no and I would never do it. Also I really wanted to do something new and see where it could take me. I’m still figuring out what I want to do with my life, so saying yes to new and scary opportunities is my way of stepping closer to my calling.
I prepared for this event a lot better in my head than I actually did in reality. I was meant to write my speech soon after agreeing to do this and be super prepared. I ended up jotting down bullet points hours before the event started.
Planning what to wear was easier than writing a speech. I wanted to make sure I said everything I wanted to say, without saying too much. I wanted to share my story without explaining myself too much. I know what I am like. I’ll get carried away and before you know it I’m speaking about moments in my life that have nothing to do with anything.
On The Day
The run up to the day I kept saying I was nervous, I had rehearsed several different outcomes in my head already. Looking back and I can’t even really tell you if I was genuinely nervous or If I just said I was because that is what I was supposed to say at the time. The nerves didn’t really kick in until the event started and the first act went on stage.
Although I was relieved to hear Sam pronounce my name correctly. I could feel myself heating up as I walked up onto the stage.I felt like I was shaking and breathing way too fast. I said a few words, then took a deep breath, to clam myself down.
I remember looking ahead of me, It was darker nearer the back of the room so I focused on that part of the room. In pictures I will be looking ahead instead of at the ground, giving the illusion that I am confident. Putting those secondary school drama lessons to good use.
>> Watch the full video on my facebook page here. <<
Getting a round of applause when speaking about being around the right people was a crazy experience. This was a crowd of people I didn’t know agreeing with me. Thinking about it makes me feel emotional. This moment was the validation I needed to know that I have the potential to talk sense.
Wow! Best birthday present ever, honestly – Dad
I have always wanted to make my family proud, always. Wanting to make my family proud has it’s positives and negatives. Now that I am doing something new and I am enjoying myself, making my parents proud whilst doing it is a bonus. Whereas before I took failing at anything really badly, all I did was talk negatively about myself. I am not academically strong and I would constantly beat myself up about it, because I wanted to be great to please everyone around me, but I never thought about being great for myself.
There are several situations that could be worse, that does not mean your experience is invalid. Someone elses negative experience doesn’t erase the existence of your experience. Give yourself the permission to manage your experience in the healthiest way possible without dismissing it.
Coming off of the stage to my family, to my dad, mum and brothers saying they didn’t think I looked nervous shocked me. I am so glad my family were there to see this moment. I was really glad my brothers were there. I really want them to know that these spaces exists. I wanted them to see black men being confidently vulnerable, it’s needed.
The event as a whole was amazing, a great balance of men and women sharing their journey and their art. The fact that so many people can turn their darkest times into art is a beautiful thing to witness.
|Ife & Jennelle from BLAM Chairty|
|Shedzi & Sam Host// Rashid Nix|
|Photographer & Poet Jolade|
|Shomi Williams from Lafiyah Health|
Find the five things you need – Omar
Well done SAIE for putting on such a needed event. Thank you for giving several talented people the space to express themselves and share their experiences.