On Public Speaking

Heart pounding.

Hands are shaking.

Sweat rolling down my back.

I can do this.

It is not like the topic is foreign to me.

I am preparing to speak for approximately 20 minutes to a Human Services Committee in our State Capitol.

The lady next to me, someone I know, has offered to help me hand out speaking notes to the legislators.  I have prepared myself as much as I can, my display is hidden and ready.

I walk to the podium.

Seems surreal.  As I grasp the sides of the lectern to prevent an obvious display of my nerves, I began to speak.  Rather than opening with my notes, I open with a heartfelt thank you.  A thank you to the Family Voices organization in my state, a thank you to our Care Coordinator, a thank you to the facility, so many people and agencies to acknowledge.  I hope I don’t leave any out.

I begin with my notes.  An introduction as to whom I am.  a parent.  an advocate. someone who cares and has a vested interest in the process.  I wonder fleetingly if this is exploitation of my son, my speaking here today. I hope not. If it is, it is.

I start with a brief history about David’s adoption.  His first year.  the first 2 years, birthdays.  The first five years.  the last five years until now.

I spend the bulk of my 20 minutes talking about the last year and his discharge from the facility he was in until January 27th of 2015.  I talk about the threats against my life.  The calls to 911.

I hear a sniffle.  Almost a cry.

I wonder, am I being heard?

I try to keep my eyes on my notes, I know I should look up, but if I do, I will lose focus and break down.  This is a life we are talking about.

Not mine.

His.

I speak about the stress.  I talk about the thought of giving up custody. I talk about what I would like to see if I were king.

Before I close.  I look up.  I note the time.  just under 20 minutes.  Perfect.

I explain my number one fear for my son.

“My number one fear is that I will answer a knock on my door, to see law enforcement and have them tell me that my son was shot during an officer involved shooting.”

I ask a question of the committee.  “Do you want to see what mental illness looks like?”

As I see them nod, I reach down and pull out my display.

a 12 x 20 poster print of my son.  Glued to a larger poster board.  It is obvious that they are affected.  I know, briefly that I have reached these people.

I pass the poster to my helper.  I thank her.  She turns and shows the image to the audience.

You can feel the emotion in the room.

A little bit, I let down my guard.  Nearly done.  I ask if there are questions of the committee. and answer them as they come.

I turn to my seat.  You can see the emotion that people are feeling.  Very few dry eyes.

I think to myself “next time, bring a supply of tissues…”

I know that I will give this talk again.

I wish that it wasn’t necessary.

Will it impact my son?

I don’t know.  I pray that it does.

Might it impact others?

I don’t know.  I pray that it does.

As the meeting ended, I was asked to present to another group.

I am all about raising awareness so agree, scheduling contingent of course.  They will reach out to me in the coming weeks.

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