My First Time Speaking At An Event


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 true growth for me. I will be looking back on this year in my next monthly update.

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.

Preparation

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 it 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.

I looked back on some of my old blog posts and used them to help me word what I wanted to say.



Although I was relieved to hear Sam pronounce my name correctly lol. 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, I needed 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, that way I couldn't identify faces and completely freak myself out. Also In pictures I will be looking ahead instead at the ground, giving the illusion that I am confident. Putting those secondary school drama lessons to good use.

Three minutes in and I am not sure what else to say and then I remember I wrote notes. Also thanks for the time check mum - 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 willingly agreeing with me. Thinking about it makes me feel emotional. I have expressed before that validation from others has contributed to my confidence, however I refuse to let it be the only way I gain confidence.
This moment was the validation I needed to know that I have the potential to talk sense. It confirmed that I made sense, not only did I just allow the words to flow without conscious thought, but it all made sense and wasn't just a jumble of words.

Moments After

Wow! Best birthday present ever, honestly - Dad

I have always wanted to make my family proud, always. I feel weird admitting this but here goes. 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.

This event fell on my dad's birthday, so it was a special occasion. I purposely wanted my dad to be around people who openly speak about mental health, especially young black people. The generations before us tend to think young people don't have any mental struggles or any reason to be depressed.

I know it can be frustrating for him when he questions me and my siblings about self doubt, especially when we answer with "I don't know". It can be difficult for me to pin point one reason why I doubt myself at times because It can be a whole host of things. At the same time I brush it off and tell myself that I am not the only one, pretty much ignoring my own experiences on the basis that "it could be worse". 


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.

I had a few points I wanted to elaborate on and correct. I was annoyed at myself for not explaining my experience better, but I told myself it was done and I did not need to explain myself to make other feel better. Yet here I am about to say that my Is This Anxiety? Accurately explains how I came to discover that I have a mild case of anxiety.

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.



Event Overview

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.

Rae Levine

Rae had an emotional and powerful performance. The combination of music and the power behind her words created one hell of an experience. I am looking forward to her EP 'Tears Fall, Passion Swims'.

Henry Stone 
Henry Stone started off the night with some great pieces.

Ife & Jennelle from BLAM Chairty

I really enjoyed Ife & Jennelle had to say about black people not being afraid to use the word black, to be unapologetic when celebrating black excellence.

These women are doing great work, loved what they said about the black community working on our own people before trying to tackle universal issues. Giving the example of the Slave trade in Syria. If we have a stronger community we would have more power to do more. Something I think about a lot, we definitely have the potential to do more.

BLAM Charity - Black Learning Achievement Mental Health. A charity founded by six young women created to promote a positive dialogue of social identity and culture through history.

Sarah Jewel

Sarah Jewel sang one of my favourite songs; Jasmine Sullivan - Masterpiece. Even with a cold Sarah sang the hell out of this song.

Tony Mars

Loved this performance by Tony Mars.


The Coalition
The Coalition did an amazing dance routine for us, a combination of street dance and African inspired dances.

Shedzi & Sam Host// Rashid Nix 

Really enjoyed what Rashid had to say, again another event where the number of men at the event was noticeable. I have had this conversation before about more men turning up to events for them - Self Care Isn't Just For Women.

Rashid is part of the Green Party, he was really honest about how politicians work. Expressing that some care about the people and others don't care at all.

He spoke about the importance of healing, some of us are in the process of healing so I definitely resignated with this part of his speech.

Jolade

I loved Jolade's spoken word pieces, they were so honest. He spoke about masculinity in way that had us all speechless. The idea of what it means to be a man and the good and bad that come with that label. Events like this are needed, giving more space for men to speak on their experiences.

Shomi Williams

I loved how honest Shomi was regarding the attitude towards mental health within the black community. Made me laugh when she mentioned telling her mum that she's broke only to hear "you're rich in Jesus name". Dismissing mental health only makes it worse. You just end up pushing people away. Follow Shomi on twitter, she has some great tweets on mental health. Shomi has also created a platform for those dealing with mental health, to promote health and well being in black communities - Lafiya Health

OmarTKIF 

Find the five things you need - Omar 

Omar had a lot of wisdom to share, I really enjoyed what he had to say. He spoke about the importance of using your voice to speak your truth. I couldn't agree more, everytime someone speaks on something I wasn't able to put into words, i feel so much stronger. You never now who will hear your message and who can relate to it. There is strength in being vulnerable and sharing those difficult times with others.

I am looking forward to their next event. The conversation has to continue within the black community, we need to know what we are experiencing in order to know how to manage it.

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.

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Email me: Saabirahlawrencexo@gmail.com

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