Why I Finally Opened Up About My Mental Illness (Even Though I Was Scared As Hell)

girl standing in front of ocean
Timothy Paul Smith

The director sent me off to hair and makeup. The makeup artist started working on me. There was no need for small talk to make me comfortable.

The sound guy walked over and pretended to introduce himself to me as he put a mic on me. We both laughed. The situation was weird.

I felt like I was in a dream, it was all weirdly surreal.

We got on set and they told me to go take my seat in front of the camera. They checked that my mic was set, and adjusted the lights around me.

It was go time.

Just then one of the crew commented on how it was weird that there was no producer pushing everyone to get started. We all laughed.

You see, I was the producer. But I had decided I was ready to tell my story, and for the first time decided to be in front of camera instead of behind it.

I’m a shy person. I hate being the center of attention. I’ve always preferred to fade into the background. I still am not sure what gave me the confidence to agree to be on camera, but I just knew I had to do it.

As we were developing the series, we had decided we were going to feature someone discussing mental health. The only issue was that we couldn’t find anyone who was willing to speak about their struggle with mental health on camera. The director and I decided to drop the angle and replace the story with something else.

But during the next night as I lay in bed at 2 a.m., I knew that I made a mistake. I felt like we were missing the opportunity to speak about important issues, issues that so many people struggle with but don’t feel they can be public about. If we skipped it, we were no better than the people who make us feel like we need to hide that part of ourselves.

So, the next day I called the director and told him I changed my mind, we had to feature a mental health story. He heard my reasoning but, reminded me that we didn’t have a story to feature.

In that moment I knew what I had to do. I told him that I could speak about it. I have been working at this company for two and a half years, and this is something that no one there knew about me. It’s not a piece of myself that I am open about. And yet, here I was offering to talk about it on camera.

From there, I started telling other people who needed to know. I told my boss, I told our marketing person, the CEO. And with each person I told, it reiterated for me that I was doing the right thing. For so long I hid my struggles because of how I feared it would brand me, but as I started telling people I started realizing that it only made them respect me more.

No one was calling me crazy, or all of sudden thinking I was incapable. I didn’t know how to deal with it. It was strange, I was so prepared for everyone to react badly, but everyone reacted well.

The fact that I was depressed and had anorexia didn’t change the person they knew and respected. I was still the same person in their eyes.

I realized that by going on camera, I was going to be exposing this and, in a way, labeling myself. And I was okay with that. Sometimes, when you make a decision, within minutes you start regretting it. But sometimes, you make a decision and no matter how much you try to doubt it, something just tells you that it’s right decision. That’s how I felt about this. They gave me the opportunity to pull out multiple times, but I never wanted to. As soon as I said I would do it, I knew this was something I was supposed to do.

So in that moment as I sat in front of the camera I told my story. It wasn’t easy, I messed up. I got nervous, I had to do multiple takes. But I was honest, and I was me. No walls, no hiding. I was sharing my story and I was proud. TC mark

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