*Trigger Warning – This post discusses self harm and suicide. If you are affected by this post, please seek professional help and advice.
Some of us experience more than one mental health problem – maybe two or three. This week I wanted to look at how we can use our mental health experiences to educate other people and raise awareness.
Here is Mike Veny’s mental health experience.
My name is Mike Veny and I am a professional speaker. My main topic is mental health. I’d like to share a little bit about my history with mental health challenges and how those challenges became my career.
Bracing for Bad Weather
Throughout my entire life, I have struggled with mental health challenges. My challenges make it difficult for me to have healthy relationships and take care of myself. During my darkest times, I’ve harmed myself and have tried to take my own life.
Like you, I want to be loved by people. I grew up believing that if people found out about my mental health challenges, I would not be loved. This was a reality because I saw how other people treated and talked about people with mental health challenges.
In addition to my depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anger management issues, I carry a heavy backpack. It’s the same backpack that other people with similar struggles carry. It weighs about 45 pounds and it is invisible. Deep inside this heavy backpack is shame…neatly tucked away.
I knew that I would have to carry this backpack with me forever. I was bracing for a lifetime of bad weather in my social life. This sucks because when it rains, it pours.
Taking the Stage
In 2011, I said my first words on stage as a guest mental health public speaker at a youth event in New York. I had no idea that this would lead to a career as a paid mental health speaker. I couldn’t have planned for this and am still trying to make sense of it all.
I got hired for my first speech after contacting someone when I was in crisis. My crisis included days of me feeling angry, anxious, sad, and harming myself. I was in pain and just wanted to die. Something in me told me to do the right thing and call a mental health professional.
When she picked up the phone, we spoke briefly about what I was going through. She listened and then calmly proposed a solution – hiring me to speak at her upcoming mental health event. Initially, I was completely resistant to the idea.
Despite my resistance, I agreed to be her speaker. Even though it didn’t take away my pain, I felt just a little bit better knowing that I would get to talk about my issues. And truthfully, I was excited to know that I was getting paid to do it.
After taking the stage and giving my first mental health presentation, I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. For a few hours that day, my heavy backpack was gone.
Nowadays, I still struggle with emotional pain, but I am a lot happier. When I think about how the stigma surrounding mental health has impacted my life, the lyrics to the song Carry That Weight by the Beatles immediately come to mind.
Carrying the weight of stigma around with you every day of your life is painful and horrible!
In my experience with mental health challenges, the hardest part was the many times where I felt no sense of hope. Knowing that other people experienced hopelessness with their mental health challenges is why I began speaking and writing about this subject.
The mission of Transforming StigmaTM is to inspire hope through practical content. You don’t have to let your challenges define you. Hopefully, I have given you some food for thought.
Mike Veny is America’s leading mental health speaker, a high-energy interactive drumming facilitator, and proud member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI).
Mike has kindly asked me to add these two videos – both are brilliant, so check them out!
TEDx Talk Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nma0Gey-KEU.
What Does Mental Illness Feel Like to the Sufferer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgJ1J_RjLnA.