I’ve been a little MIA because I was in a depressive episode but today I feel human again so I’m going to write quickly in case it comes back.
This weekend I did my TEDx talk in a giant theater in front of hundreds of people. I practiced my speech for hours and hours but I continued to blank on it because my depression shows up as brain fog and memory problems so in the end I broke all the rules and carried my crinkled notes up on stage with me. It looked ugly but frankly, depression is ugly sometimes and since my talk was about mental illness it at least fit the theme.
I had all these ideas about how my TED talk would look…about how I would learn to wear makeup and get my hair done and buy a new outfit and have slides and photos and just nail it. In the end I wore an old dress, had my hair in a fake ponytail, gave up on slides because I was too exhausted to make them and walked on to stage wearing old slippers because I’d literally forgotten to change into real shoes before leaving the house:
But all I was focused on was just giving my talk without freaking out or throwing up on stage because I was at that point of my depression where you have to just pick the necessary stuff to worry about because you don’t have enough energy for the rest of it.
So I went on stage, almost immediately said the f word multiple times. And then about halfway through my talk I felt a panic attack rising up in my throat. My chest hurt and I couldn’t hear anything but my heartbeat and I was fighting off the hyperventilation that comes next. I tried to slow my breathing and thought I’d play it off as a dramatic pause but I couldn’t speak so the silence got longer and louder and then I knew it was way too long and awkward to go on. I didn’t even have the excuse that I’d forgotten my speech because it was right there in my hands. I considered running off the stage but I knew I would never go back on if I left so I stayed there. I let it wash over me and focused on my breathing and the deathly silence of the theater. And after what felt like hours but was probably less than a minute I explained what was happening. And I started again. And I finished. And then I ran off the stage.
I have no memory of that speech except for the panicked voices in my head in that forever silence. I wasn’t there to see how it went over. But Victor was in the audience and he texted me.
I got a standing ovation.
Right now the TEDx team is editing the video so it should be public soon. I was told before that if I had a panic attack or fucked up really badly they would edit that out so I told myself that only the people in that theater will have seen the worst, most terrifying moment I’ve ever had on stage, but now I almost wonder if it wouldn’t be better left in. I don’t know how they’ll edit it but I’m okay with either way. There is something freeing about having your worst possible nightmare come true on stage….about knowing that you can survive it. About knowing that people are so much kinder than you imagine. That most people are on your side even when your own head is not.
Thank you for reminding me of this.