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Sharing your story in the media
About 2 years ago now, I shared my story in the media for the first time. It was on MTV for the original Bell Let’s talk day campaign. I was so nervous I bugged the producer with all my questions. Even though I was told numerous times not too, I looked down the barrel of the camera as if it was some kind of weapon. I was terrified. Public speaking is scary enough, but I was scared of telling the world my secrets and seeing the reactions of so many, whom (until that point) probably had no idea. I thought that sharing my story on TV would this big life changing moment. But, as the moment came and went, there was nothing. Yes you could Google me and see my face a whole ten seconds with “MTV: IMPACT” at the bottom of the screen. But there was no big moment, there was no shocked people. It came and went with the occasional “oh, I saw you on MTV….” Me: “You were waiting for Jersey Shore weren’t you….” Way to many people for me to admit “mmm yea…” Some rumors started to fly about me “calling out” my 8th grade teacher but that was it. I lost my faith in the media for a while, because (while nothing horrible happened) nothing amazing did either. People were telling me I was brave but in all honesty, I felt like I bared my soul for no reason.
Until I realized that the big change was me. Sharing my story and nothing bad happening made me feel more confident in my voice. As I shared my story more, I realize "the big horrible something" I was expecting was not going to happen. I became more confident. Even after Canada Am when my boss told me he would not have hired me if he had known about my depression, my confidence was not as shaken as it would have been without sharing my story. The people that do speak to you about it, they are telling you how awesome you are, so you begin to realize that you are strong. And the people who perceive you as weak or unworthy, that’s a problem with their beliefs. If you continue in Media, people might recognize you on occasion (it never gets normal) and more people will begin reaching out to you. Sharing their story. Make sure to have resources to forward them to, but don’t take on too much. There are a lot of people who need help out there, and you are just only one person.
Now, with my continued dealings with the media. I would be lying if I said it was perfect. Sometimes they ask you to stare at the ground and look sad. Sometimes they ask you questions to try and back you into a stereotype. Our task, as people with the stories, is to fight back. Say no. And don’t allow them to picture you in ways you don’t want to. Because I deal with depression, I know that they are going to want sad pictures or B roll of me, but I try and get them to take happier shots too. Most of the time, when the media does something that strikes you as bad or strange, they don’t realize that what they are doing is wrong. They are more than happy to work with you to correct it.
My biggest lesson when dealing with the media? People are going to ask you silly things (The dumbest question award goes to “Why do mentally ill people kill people?” tied with “tell me what your parents did wrong”). Sometimes, these questions can prompt angry knee jerk reactions. Don’t fall for it. Take a moment to come up with an answer that corrects their ignorant questions, or (if you can’t) just refuse to answer the question. As aforementioned though, sometimes, they just don’t know it’s wrong.
Media won’t change your life quickly in most cases. You won’t feel different, but people may recognize you. In most cases, they will tell you that you are awesome for sharing your story. Allowing yourself to be in the media does open doors for you, but you have to be in control of your message. In my case, while I didn't think it changed me, I look back and realized it really did. My life is different now, for the better. I have had some awkward discussions because of my media presence, but it has really gotten me in the position to do some cool things. The point is, you most likely won't realize it until you are a few years down the road looking back.
Lastly, green rooms are hardly ever green and they won’t give you only red M and Ms….
Alicia is a mindyourmind volunteer and public speaker. Because the whole cat whisper thing didn't work out. She loves to write, speak and just finished her undergrad at uwaterloo. One of Bell Let's Talk campaign's Faces of Mental Illness, Alicia works to reduce stigma and open up the conversation on mental health. Read more of her blogs on Mental Health Superhero.