I’m preparing to give a presentation next week. I was hired to talk about living with PTSD. When I asked for what specific talking points they wanted me to cover they gave me three: How I became aware that I had PTSD, How I decided to write books about it, and How I’ve moved forward in my life with the PTSD.
This is a great jumping off point, and I’m glad they had some specific ideas of what they would like the audience to hear. As I began to prepare for the talk, outlining what I wanted to say, I sat back and asked myself, what message am I really trying to convey?
I am clear about why I write and speak. I’m passionate about bringing awareness to, and to help end the stigma of living with a mental illness. But that seemed like the broad stroke message to me. I’m trying to figure out, what’s the message within that broad stroke.
I’m not an expert on PTSD. I have it, I live with it, I pay attention to it, but I don’t know the latest research. So with that in my mind, what do I want the audience to think about as they are driving home from the presentation.
As I find myself getting involved in more opportunities where I’m in a position of speaking my truth, writing openly and honestly about living with PTSD, and trying to live a more authentic life, I’m struck by the notion that I need to control the volume that I want for my voice, and how I want to represent myself within the ever-growing community of mental health public speakers.
I have had a huge learning curve and learned a lot since I emerged from the shadows. I know what I will and won’t do as far as speaking engagements, book signings, writing opportunities, and advocacy work. I let myself use the past two years as a learning experience and rarely turned anything or anyone down. I’ve been very fortunate in the opportunities that have come my way, and I’m grateful for the enormous support I’ve received.
I’m comfortable with the volume of my voice right now. I don’t aspire to be the biggest voice in the world of mental health support/advocacy. I do, however, feel that my low, steady volume is what suits me the best. I’m a believer that a ripple is what affects the change. I want to continue to be a ripple.
I have one week to prepare for my presentation. They have hired me for two hours, and I believe I will speak for a total of 1.5 hours, leaving plenty of time for questions at the end.
I believe ultimately my message is, “When you know that someone has a mental illness and they are open to it, ask questions. Have a curiosity for knowledge and people’s experiences. Most importantly lets, keep the conversation going.”