Whenever I first started therapy in my junior year of high school, now 4 years ago, I was embarrassed to say I started therapy. I didn’t want to go to begin with, but as I’ve continued my mental health journey I got more comfortable with sharing my life story. That being said, I’ve become very open and have encouraged people to start therapy. I am the first to start stories with “So in therapy the other day…” or “My therapist said…” I have become someone that is transparent about my struggles and about my mental health journey – and have truly become a mental health advocate. I’ve posted on Facebook about my struggles, and hell, I’ve dedicated an entire blog to my anxiety.
All of that being said – I am still vulnerable.
Yesterday I had to do a presentation in my Business and Professional Speaking class. Yes, you read that correctly. I identify myself as an anxiety ridden little bean, and yet I’m in a class where I have to speak in front of other students. That statement alone shows how much I’ve improved in four years’ time, considering my senior year of high school I had to deliver a small speech from Great Gatsby and nearly threw up. Anyways, whenever it came down to choose a topic, I decided to talk about my anxiety.
Going up to it I was super confident, my professor was eager to hear what I had to say, I talked about it with my therapist, and I felt like it was a really good topic. Making the PowerPoint proved to be difficult, but while practicing my speech I was finishing around 8 minutes – over the set time limit. With a flash drive in hand, I wasn’t nervous until I sat down in my class and looked around at the other students. What would they think of me? How would I go to class afterwards with everyone knowing I have a mental disorder? Would they think differently? I have slowly grown with this class of 12 students, and yet, I was being so raw and open with a group of strangers. Sure, I had other classes with some of the other kids, but they didn’t know me.
When it came time to present – nothing was helping. Breathing techniques, meditation, telling myself that every other person was also nervous, absolutely nothing. By the time I got up to present, my hands were shaking as I turned in my notes to my professor, anytime I pointed to the board my hands visibly shook with fear, and my voice stuttered the entire time. I rushed it so much that I was below the required time frame of the speech by several seconds. What turned into a speech that could be stretched to 7 minutes and 51 seconds turned into a rushed and anxious speech ending in 5 minutes 55 seconds. I felt as though I was going to vomit and felt extremely anxious before, during, and after the presentation.
I don’t regret it in the slightest.
I got to open up my journey to a class of only 12 students. I got to tell them about my struggles. I shared photos of me dancing on stage and showed pictures of my picked to shit fingers after an anxiety episode. I was open. It was raw. It was me showing my demons to the classroom. It wasn’t easy, but it was vulnerable. I could’ve talked about the history of ballet class, I could’ve talked about how to sew pointe shoes. Instead I showed my struggles. In my research statistics show that someone, if not several, of those students needed to hear what I had to say. They needed me to come out and be vulnerable, if not for me, then for themselves.
Being vulnerable is in no way easy. It is not a walk in the park. I did it with shaking hands, busted up fingers from picking, and a speech shorter than the 6-8 minutes required. But I did it. I opened the room up for discussion. I helped open the eyes to students to show that even ‘normal’ students struggle, and hopefully I made those people realize that they weren’t alone.