(need to dump this out before I actually start preparing and fleshing out my talk)

Over the past few days, I have been preparing for a workshop that I will be delivering tomorrow. The topic really isn’t something alien to me (it’s about mental health and advocacy), and I’ve given this talk before, but I’ve never been this nervous about delivering a talk. The nervousness I’m feeling comes from the fact that the audience tomorrow will be ~40 16 year olds boys from an ASEAN school, who may or may not be interested in the conversation on mental health.

I don’t really want to prejudge these people, and I know I can’t classify them. The nervousness that comes is more of a prejudice and personal fear.

I realized that the past talks that I’ve given gave me the chance to talk about mental health to people who I knew were already primed and interested in it. For example, I delivered some talks related to mental health in a specific webinar that people signed up for (sign up meaning not because they are coerced) or workshops for people who really expressed their interest. In other words, the nerves that I’m feeling right now is more out of the fear that I may alienate and cause discomfort amongst the audience.

Frankly, one thing I’ve noticed in the mental health industry is that there are more women than men (please correct me if I’m wrong, this is a personal observation). With regard to age, this is usually populated by people between 17-21 years old–at least in the Philippines. The audience I will be talking to are neither of that. For that, I can’t help but feel intimidated.

I found peace and the drive to flesh out my talk, weirdly while I was in the middle of working out (okay, a lot of my breakthroughs really do happen while I am in the middle of working out…).

I realized this: The mere fact that I know that this conversation isn’t normalized is the biggest reason why I need to give this talk.

As an advocate, I’ve always been passionate about community mobilization and education. The projects I’ve worked usually involve these two. From these, I hope to make the conversation on mental health be more known.

As an advocate, it is my responsibility to talk about this. There is nothing wrong with sparking discomfort. The actions that we make should cause discomfort and spark mobilization. In fact, the biggest gateway to normalizing conversations is the fact that there is stigma and discomfort associated with the topics. We must break this barrier of discomfort through sparking conversation and talking about the things that make us uncomfortable.

I personally know that my audience tomorrow will not be in the same wavelength (believe me, I’ve attended talks where I spaced out mostly not because the speakers weren’t good but because the topic didn’t resonate much with me…) as me or the people I usually talk to about mental health. I know that some may be disengaged, disinterested, and alienated even. But I genuinely believe that each action we take as advocates contributes the mental health awareness that we hope for.

I’m still nervous. I’m still finishing my script. My mind is detailing what may possibily go wrong. But my heart is hopeful that I will be able to advocate for my cause this way. I’m frankly exhausted this week and a part of me would rather sleep early tonight and sleep in tomorrow, but I will keep going.

I love what I’m doing and I believe in it. I know I will give my best tomorrow.