A couple of weeks ago after a meeting with my personal tutor, I agreed to go public to my class about my experiences with mental illness (see this post here). Today was the day of my presentation and my anxiety was (understandably) sky high. For about 5 hours before the actual presentation, I was in a limbo state of near panic-attack versus trippy dissociative symptoms, and didn’t think I would be able to follow through.
I had planned ahead for this so had my cold water bottle with me, as well as cinnamon balls and chewing gum for grounding. I also made a list of words I was banned from saying to myself in my head (e.g. “I can’t do this!”) as well as a list of cheerleading statements that I tried to replace them with (e.g. “I’ve got this shit!”)
For the entire hour of the lecture before, I felt shaky and dizzy with nerves, my temperature kept fluctuating from boiling to freezing, and I couldn’t concentrate at all on the content. As the clock struck 3, our lecturer wrapped up her workshop and asked me if I was okay to go ahead with mine. I said, “No, but I’m gonna do it anyway”. There was no way I was going to let those hours of anxiety be wasted! I was determined!
Honestly, I don’t remember doing the presentation because I was so frikkin’ dissociated. But here is what I do remember: The presentation lasted 15-20 minutes, my anxiety after starting lasted 5. I barely used my notes, everyone’s eyes were on me the entire time, and apparently I spoke coherently and at the perfect speed. One lecturer called me a ‘budding psychologist’ and told me about her own family members’ struggles with mental illnesses, another lecturer said she wants me to do a presentation for staff in the future! We got an email sent around to us, which ended with “And another huge well done to X, for being so brave and doing her presentation for us today!” A number of peers asked questions or made comments, I received a handful of hugs, and one boy opened up about his friend who has BPD too – and said I really helped change his perspective on her situation.
I felt so fucking proud of myself – and I never ever feel proud of myself! It was hugely empowering. I am still in shock as I genuinely did not think I would be able to do it, due to the crippling anxiety beforehand. I feel so touched by the 3 lecturers and all my peers’ support, and honestly don’t think it could have gone any better. Everyone’s reactions gave me the boost of passion and energy I needed, and I feel determined to continue following this path and doing more advocacy work in the future.
I have actually been asked to speak at a conference next year, so watch this space, I’m on a roll!