September’s theme is Taking Chances. I’ve always wished I was the type of person who takes chances. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m more comfortable taking baby steps toward something I want and then beating myself up for years afterward if it doesn’t work out. If there was a mental triathlon that involved running over everything I did wrong, swimming in a sea of despair, and biking through the Valley of Regret, I would be in the top ten every year.
For the last few years, though, I’ve experimented with taking more chances. I’ve told stories onstage never thought I’d tell. I’ve disagreed with people I love hoping they’d still love me when I stopped talking. And I’ve tried to remain open to romantic love (though I seem to flip flop on that daily). If you knew me 20 years ago you’d say I’ve come a long way. And I have. But there’s one thing I’ve been wrestling with for two years that I haven’t been able to do. Every month that goes by gets added to the already ridiculous amount of time I’ve spent avoiding this this thing and it makes it even harder.
Two years ago I agreed to write a speech about how to normalize mental health problems. Since then, I’ve written draft after draft and thrown them all away. I’ve worked with storytellers, comedians, and professional speech coaches and I hate every word I’ve written. All I have to do is share my own story of dealing with depression and give people a few ideas on what I think will help make it easier to talk openly about mental health issues. For a guy who spends hours on stage telling personal stories this shouldn’t be a problem. But it is. It’s a big problem. It’s a problem because I’m stuck in “What if?”
What if someone takes my advice and gets hurt?
A big part of dealing with mental health problems is to stop pretending you don’t have one. But who am I to tell anyone to come out of the closet with their black dog in tow? What right do I have to tell anyone to take a chance and trust people?
I’m not worried about myself because I have a big mouth. If I hear someone say people with depression are weak, I’m more than happy to get in that person’s face and tell them what’s what. When I hear someone say that anyone who takes their own life is a coward, I joyfully start loading the verbal howitzer. It’s one of the few places in my life when I truly don’t care about the consequences. Too many people I love live with these things for me to not speak up about them.
But this speech, man. It’s got me running scared. This thing I gotta write, it’s not about getting angry and setting people straight. It’s about asking a stranger in an audience to have faith that admitting they struggle with depression can be the best thing they’ve ever done for themselves. Who am I to tell people how to handle their depression? And at the same time, who am I to assume they can’t handle what I say?
Now that I’ve said all that, I will tell you that I promised myself last week that I would finish this speech. I made that promise when I decided the theme for our next show was Taking Chances. Maybe if I heard some stories of you guys taking chances it’ll help me take one. So I hope some of you will come to Roy Street on Sept 27 and tell a story about a time when you took a chance. Your story doesn’t need to have a happy ending. It can be about a time when you took a chance and it didn’t work out. It just needs to be about taking that chance and what you learned from it.
Remember to keep it clean, practice out loud and on friends, and time yourself so you know it’s under 8 minutes.
Here are the rules and guidelines for telling a story with us:
If you ever want help on a story I’m happy to do that. Feel free to email me or call if you like. I’ve had a number of people recently ask me for a good book on storytelling. This is my favorite:
I hope to see you on Thursday, September 27, 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea