Telling Your Story – The Courage of Brayden Harrington

When we all grow up, we should wish for the courage of this 13-year-old boy.

As many of you likely know, the Democratic National Convention was this past week. Thursday saw the formal acceptance speech of Joe Biden to become the Democratic Nominee, but many people don’t remember that speech compared to Brayden Harrington’s.

Brayden Harrington is a 13-year-old boy with a severe stutter. Apparently, he met Joe Biden at a rally. The former Vice President has struggled all his life with a stutter and has always connected deeply with them.

Here’s the first time Biden & Harrington met:

Then, on Thursday, just before Biden’s speech, Harrington addressed the nation:

It’s an astonishing display of courage and strength. As a 13-year-old, I didn’t want to be seen in public on my best day – let alone with my deepest struggles and insecurities displayed FOR THE ENTIRE COUNTRY. This young man and his family knew – had to know – that they were exposing themselves to millions of horrendous people, people who would mock this kid. They had to know he was changing his life forever.

He spoke anyway.

And he inspired others. I caught this tweet:

This brave man was inspired by a 13-year-old boy. It’s unreal.

Brayden Harrington’s bravery inspired others. It had millions of people looking at television and thinking, “If he can do it, why can’t I?”

Forgive me for a moment as I veer into my story. When I first spoke about my own depression & anxiety issues, I did it to try to destigmatize mental health. What I didn’t calculate was the inspirational effect. That by telling my story, I’d encourage others to tell there’s.

That’s what Brayden Harrington did.

To be clear, what this kid did, given his young age and the literal national audience, was astonishing. I just have no other words for it. But I would hope that all of us out there could look at Harrington’s bravery – and the incredibly warm response it has received – and see ourselves in it. Whatever you shame, your struggle, if you think you are the only one…you are incorrect. Millions upon millions of people suffer from stuttering, and Harrington gave them all a confident and commanding voice.

My point? Share your story. It doesn’t have to be on national television or in an op-ed in your paper. It doesn’t have to be a big Facebook status.

Tell a friend. Tell a stranger. Say the words out loud, and find comfort and strength in finding your voice and using it. There is a power in sharing what you think is a shameful secret…you show it you aren’t afraid. You find support in areas you didn’t know existed. And you inspire others to do the same. It helps you take command of your secret, whatever it is.

Trust me on that.

The importance of telling your story

This is a bit of a different entry: Partially standard, but also partially self-promotional.  Fair warning!

As I’ve discussed before, I made a very conscious decision, about three years ago, to tell my story about my experiences with anxiety and depression.  I made this decision because I thought it was important to put a face to these two largely misunderstood and under-discussed disorders, and because I realized that doing so would help fight the stigma that still surrounds both of these illnesses.  A good friend of mine also told me that going public would change my career in a very dramatic way – he was completely right, in ways that I totally failed to anticipate.

Three years later, this public conversation has evolved into something more.  I’ve always enjoyed writing, but had basically given up the art of writing fiction.  That changed around 2015, when, during one of my down periods, I decided to try it again, remembering the joy and therapeutic value I got from it.  Reading Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell at around the same time certainly helped remind me!

That, in essence, was the start of Redemption, my fiction book that will be premiering in the first half of 2017.  I’ll have more to say as the book gets closer to release.  The basic plot is this: A group of young adults find themselves transported onto a spaceship, and they have to save the world. What makes this one a bit different is the main character, who suffers from anxiety and depression. Sounds familiar, right?

If you are interested, I discuss the book, my own battles and the importance of telling your story in this podcast with my friend Kim Plyler of Sahl Communications.

Obviously I wrote this book to tell a story, and I think it’s an important one: Depression and anxiety are real, they are treatable, but they don’t have to stop you from doing important things and living/enjoying your life.  I discuss all that and more in the podcast, and I hope it’s something you can listen to!