Years after my brother’s death by suicide in 1999, I finally developed the need to speak about him, his death, about mental illness. But up to that point, I had done what many do. I didn’t talk about it. Those around me didn’t talk about it. We kind of pretended everything was good, and we just kept living our lives. We loved Dan dearly, cared for Dan, but largely didn’t deal with the elephant in the room. To this day, I regret not talking with my brother about his illness, and what he was going through. Today, I have MUCH greater empathy for him.
But back then, I didn’t dare look at myself and the concept of myself having a mental illness. I ran obsessively, had dealt with an eating disorder, had cut my wrists in college, fell in the biggest race of my life on purpose, could not focus for the life of me, was constantly in a state of motion and could not stand still, had trouble with relationships, etc. But I was in complete denial that I might actually have sort of mental illness myself. Those around me weren’t willing to go there. I wasn’t willing to go there. I was a champion runner. I had to live up to my semi-perfect reputation. Couldn’t rock the boat.
Around 2006, having just been diagnosed with post-partum depression after the birth of my daughter, and forced to look at myself in the mirror for the first time, I eventually began to develop the need to talk about my diagnosis, my not so pleasant life experiences ( in baby steps), my brother, his death. Perhaps this was self-serving as it was liberating for me. It felt good to talk. It felt good for others to listen, to understand. I developed empathy for my brother. I began to realize how difficult it must have been to live in relative silence with regards to his illness. I began touching on these issues in public speaking, in part because it seemed to help others, but it definitely helped me, and at the same time I was trying to honor my brother. Perhaps making up for my silence, if ever so slightly, when he was alive. That feeling of guilt.
Fast forward to today, where I am still recovering from a well documented extreme tumultuous period in my life to say the least, involving misdiagnosis, suicidal depression, manic highs, and a bizarre year in Las Vegas. Lets just say everything has been ramped up in a big way today as far as how I feel about speaking out, sharing our stories, etc. Olympian turned escort turned mental health advocate. A journey I sure never saw coming. But as a result, I do believe my story became more worth sharing. Perhaps that sharing will help someone else as it certainly has me. Sharing has been painful sometimes, and a little scary, but at the same time liberating and healing. I know when others share their journeys, it makes me more likely to share mine, so hopefully that’s what my doing so does for others. Sharing helps others understand, creating empathy, reducing stigma. That’s all good in my book.
I enjoy speaking, and have done quite a bit of it since the book release. I have a stump speech if that’s your preference, but I also enjoy a conversational engagement where I am essentially interviewed on stage. This tends to offer a more flexible format where questions and answered can be more tailored to a specific audience, and there is a good deal of audience interaction.
If you are at all interested in having me speak, to share my story and my ongoing journey of recovery, please don’t hesitate to check the testimonials you will find at this website. And please use the “Contact” option at the bottom of this page to get in touch.