I shared my story publicly for the first time about 14 months ago. It was the first time I talked about the worst of my darkness, and the result of why I chose to become sober. Since that time, I have become comfortable talking to those who reach out to me and need a shoulder to lean on, or just someone who is going to listen. This is the main reason for why I have chosen to be honest about my past, and how I have felt through certain points of my life. But let me be clear: it is one thing for me to talk about my story through writing, but it is something else entirely when asked to stand in front of a room and speak about it.
So, when I was asked to come speak to a group of women student athletes, I was extremely excited, as well as incredibly nervous. Mind you, not only was I asked to come speak, I was asked to come speak at the University where my journey took a dark turn.
I had one month to prepare, and a lot of thoughts running through my head that I wanted to get down on paper because I considered the thought to be “relevant,” and “important to use.” When I actually sat down to prepare for my speech, I was usually overwhelmed with emotion that usually led to thoughts like, “let’s try again tomorrow,” or, “why is talking out loud about this so much harder?” You would think writing your story down on index cards would be an easier feat, but I was finding that a story where you are the main character, it is hard to portray the message you are so desperately trying to get across.
A week went by and I had nothing to show for it. I was now down to three weeks, and I was beginning to feel the pressure more and more. Please note: procrastination is one of my biggest weaknesses, and something I have had a problem with for as long as I can remember. A huge part of me thought that I wasn’t going to put off this speech, but there I was, creating ways to avoid the important.
When I was first asked to come talk, the first thing that came to mind was, “Is anyone going to care?” I had to quickly remind myself that if I was doing this to see if anyone cares, I would have stopped sharing my story a long time ago. My goal with sharing it has always just been to show others that they are not alone. That, even if you don’t relate to it 100%, or even 10% for that matter, that it was still reassuring to know that you aren’t the only person who suffers from life at times. I have found that it is not the story that is shared that changes someone’s life, but the message they take away from it that makes the biggest difference. I have received a handful of emails from strangers who have read my words, and it is always different when it comes to the reason for how my story may have helped them. Like I said, I only share my story with the intention of hopefully getting someone to change their mind for the better.
So, with a week left until my speech, I finally sat down and practiced what it was that I needed to say. I decided that I would need to write it all down in bullet points so I wouldn’t ramble when talking. I have a tendency to do that. It only took me 37 index cards to write down the critical parts of my journey. (I still don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, so I refuse to think about it any longer)
I reminded myself that once upon a time, I was one of the girls sitting in that audience I would be speaking to, and I was sharing my story with them to hopefully deter ‘that girl’ from going down some of the same paths.
The day of the speech came, and I felt prepared. Don’t get me wrong, I was a nervous wreck, but I knew that this was something important to do on a personal growth level, and I was excited for the opportunity, and the experience. When standing in front of the group of girls, I looked around and thought, “So this is what this feels like?” I started talking, and I could feel the tears starting to swell up in the corners of my eyes. I had barely even said my name, and here I was, already starting to cry. “Get it together, Megan. You haven’t even started talking yet.”
I have a lot of work to do when it comes to publicly speaking about my story. I depended on my index cards too much, I probably said “Um” a few too many times, and I stumbled over my words as my mouth tried to keep up with my mind. But I did it. I stood in front of a room filled with people, and I talked about the parts of myself that I used to hate. I pretty much cried through the whole thing, but overall, I would say that I kept it together. Writing has always been easier for me to do when it comes to sharing my story, but speaking about it was a brand-new feeling. It was the first time I truly felt like I had come full circle from where I had been, or better yet, where I had put myself. It was an awesome experience to share that part of my journey while at the University where it all took place.
Speaking has always been a fear of mine, and I know that I am not alone in that. I will continue to share my story with those who need it, because as long as I am able to help one person, I am doing what I intended to do when I decided I would speak my truth.
There is nothing to be ashamed of when telling people who you are. You were not created to be understood by everybody, nor should you ever try to be. Always remember, you aren’t what has happened to you, you are what you have learned from it.
Click on the below links to read my story, or submit your own. I love you.