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Guest Blogger – Elizabeth Anderson: Keynote Speaking (in spite of a mental illness)

When I started my business I thought “I will figure it out”. I really didn’t know how I was going to figure it out. Then, I found Momentum and went through the Women’s Venture and Accelerator programs.
BeingMentallyHealthy-book-coverThis year I was asked to be a speaker for the Canadian Women’s Foundation conference in June 2015. Knowing you are going to be speaking to 100 people for a panel discussion and then a keynote to end the conference can be nerve-racking. You have to let your fear transform into excitement. As I was preparing I was aware of the fact that I am not used to traveling alone and I wouldn’t know anyone just the people who contacted me to book me and organize the details. I was prepared and the day came to leave for Toronto. I had the books shipped so they were at the hotel when I arrived. Everything was in order and I took a cab to the Elm Street YWCA where I found a very lovely wine and cheese party which would be followed by the panel discussion.
The panel discussion was interesting. I was listening to the other speakers, then it was my turn. The normal butterflies showed up in my stomach and I told them to fly in formation. It was a sea of friendly faces that I was addressing. The audience was so engaged and laughed at my comment of something I have learned is the idea that “Done is better than perfect”.  When I talked about doing my first keynote to the Forum for Behavioural Science in Family Medicine and they had never had anyone with lived experience speak before, the audience was obviously moved.  In the question and answer, an audience member asked “What is your book is about?” and I said “It is my memoir with a self-help guide at the back about how to deal with mental illness”. The moderator whispered to me “ Tell them it is for sale!” and so I said “It is for sale, 20 bucks at the table”, there was a round of applause and later people came up to me and said “Good marketing!” The keynote the next day was equally as satisfying.
I was grateful for the opportunity to tell them that when I was diagnosed with schizophrenia I thought I should give up on my dreams. When I was young I wanted to be drama teacher or an actress. When I am speaking there is an element of performance in it and writing a book is creative. Here I am 20 years later after struggling to master living with schizophrenia and recovering so well I have what I wished in some measure. I have no intention of giving up on my dreams. This is not what I dreamed though— it is better!
Elizabeth Anderson
International Speaker on recovery from Schizophrenia and Depression, author of Being Mentally Healthy and Momentum graduate

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