A lot of people ask me why I do public speaking. My answer is that it is a huge passion of mine. If you know my story by now, you will know that I started hearing voices shortly after my mom died. When I started hearing these voices, I was mortified. I didn't know what was going on with me and why it was happening. Fueled by stigma and television, I began to believe that if I told anyone about the voices in my head that I would be locked in a padded room for the rest of my life. So, for two long tumultuous years, I remained silent about the voices. From the age of 14 to 16 I suffered alone with these horrible voices. Fortunately, I had a teacher who I learned to trust and eventually confided in him that I heard voices. That is when the ball started to roll on my recovery from psychosis.
Now I tell you why I am so passionate about public speaking. I went through those 2 painful years and felt I was alone. I didn't know who to talk to, who to trust, or even understand what was going on in my head. Those are feelings that I never, ever want another person to go through. So, I go to every high school I can with the Speak Up program (mindcheck.ca website). I am fortunate enough to work with Linda Wowk and 4 other co-presenters. We share a story of hope, early intervention and that recovery can be expected.
I speak to the RCMP and 911 dispatchers through BCSS Schizophrenia Society) about my story and how they can better help someone who is experiencing psychosis. I also speak at Surrey College, Stenberg College, Douglas College and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. I love what I do. I love reaching out to others and let them know that no, you're not going to be locked in a padded room and no, you do not have to remain silent.
I didn't have this kind of information when I was a teenager. We didn't have any classes at school on how to handle stress or even anything about mental health. I felt so alone. Through public speaking, my goal is to reach as many people as I can, and provide a message of hope. I didn't have a program like Speak Up at my school. That is why I share my story. You may say I am brave or courageous to speak to thousands of people a year about such intimate details of my mental health journey; I don't see it that way. I am just putting myself out there so kids can know that they are not alone. I don't want to see anyone suffering the way I did for those two years. So here I am.