Outspoken Observations: A co-founder's personal experience with mental health

I think and talk a lot about mental health. I believe the discussion is important, and admitting my own battles with anxiety has eased the plight for a lot of my friends.  There is value in feeling like you’re not alone in your struggles.  And I’m grateful that organizations like Movember are putting a spotlight on the benefits of sharing your feelings, and putting programs in place to help people open up - because it isn’t always easy.  But it seems like a great place to start.

For most of my life, I have suffered with an anxiety disorder surrounding communication. For instance, if a friend didn’t respond to a text or email in what I considered to be an expedient manner, my go to thought would be “I did something to make them not like me” or “that person is angry with me.” And I deeply believed that to be true. My mind would start shuffling through possible scenarios where I had wronged said person. “Well maybe it was because I spilled wine on her couch” or “maybe she doesn’t want to be my friend because I got too drunk at that party.”  This would go on for hours. What had I done to make myself so unlikeable that someone could just throw me to the wayside? What mistake had I made to make myself so discardable? And then they would respond to my text. I’d be relieved.  And that’s how I lived and interacted with the world. I terrorized myself.  

I thought this was normal. I thought it was normal that I had set a standard on communication response time and that any one who didn’t adhere to such standard was in the wrong, and I would lash out. Then finally, people had a logical reason to not want to be around me. It wasn’t because I spilled wine on their couch or got too drunk at whatever party, it was because I made it impossible to please me. I was a walking and talking self-fulfilling prophecy. And the question that I finally had to ask myself was:  why?  

After some time spent in therapy, I finally found an answer: I hated myself. My self-worth was low. And the reason why I was doubting my relationships was because I truly believed that I wasn’t worthy of friendship and love.  

I’m lucky, in that, I’m educated and I have a support system. I have the wherewith-all to research my symptoms and strategize a plan to get better. And I have the resources to execute that plan. I also have the desire for self-improvement. Think about how rare that combination is. If any piece of that puzzle was missing, I would never get the chance to be happy.    

I’m no longer a walking, talking self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m walking, talking proof that speaking openly about your feelings is a solution to having a healthy mind.  

During these last two weeks of November, it’s important to keep conversations like this top of mind. We love working with organizations like Movember and their co-founder Adam Garone who recognize the importance of being vulnerable with one another, and help us all to feel a little less alone, in part with their month-long (and year round) campaign in support of men’s health.  Adam, as well as General Donald Bolduc, are both strong proponents in advocating for the discussion of mental health issues, including suicide prevention and post-traumatic stress (PTS). We continue to support them in getting their messages out to our event hosts for programming ideas at their next event. Building community and supporting a healthy mind makes any organization that much stronger. Always here to talk on or offline about this subject that is especially near and dear to me.

Bust it,

Tara

Outspoken turns one!

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We'd like to take a moment to reflect and share some thoughts as we celebrate our first year in business. Below is a message from each of the co-founders. Thank you for your continued support and interest in our agency!

From Tori:

One of our speakers, Brian Bordainick, met with Caitie and I (Tara was in Halifax) before we officially launched a year ago and asked if we were sure we wanted to do this. If we were sure we were ready to go through the stress, the heartache, the isolation, the commitment to take the reins and the responsibility involved with owning and running your own business. Admittedly, I second guessed myself, not my team, in this moment. Not because I didn’t believe we could do it—I'd helped with a startup before. But because I knew how successful he had been and how passionate he was about his own business and how hard it was when that business had recently failed. I didn’t want to ever experience that failure and emotion.

But rather than stopping before we started, I took a deep breath and embraced that pressure and decided I couldn’t let the risk stop me from the reward. We had made the promise to be committed to each other, and I was going to help see that through. Not only because we wanted to be successful, but also because we wanted to ensure the success of our speakers—our friends and our inspirations for being in this industry (Brian included).

I would say this first year of business has flown by and I can’t believe it, but retrospectively, I absolutely can remember the seconds, minutes, hours of daily focus put into making this first year count. I couldn’t imagine what it would’ve been like 21 months ago when I left the last agency or 12 months ago when we started this one if I had decided to leave this industry. It’s molded me as an individual and I can’t thank everyone enough for pushing me and my co-founders to our limits and allowing me to be a part of this experience. I’ve been so lucky to have met some of the smartest, most impassioned, inspiring people—both before and after this agency began. And the two at the top of that list are my co-founders.

So to my co-founders, even if I don’t say it everyday, I love you. To our dear partner and friend, Dave, you’re the Bosley to our Angels and the best pain in the ass to have around. Thank you for being our biggest cheerleader. To our speakers, keep being the best version of you—you are our inspiration. And to everyone who has supported us, worked with us, and believed in us, we couldn’t have gotten through the first year without you. Thank you isn’t enough, but it’ll have to do for now.

From Tara:

In January 2015, I packed up my (rather large) apartment in Halifax, Nova Scotia and stuffed my belongings into a tiny studio on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  I had visited New York City for the first time back in the Fall of 2014.  I took a meeting, which turned into a job offer, and as with most of my major life decisions - I impulsively accepted.  Luckily, I had some nudging from our speaker, Dev Aujla, earlier that week.  We were discussing the idea of my moving to New York prior to any job offer, and I asked him “but what do I do with all of my stuff in Halifax?”.  His response was, “You get rid of it.  It’s just stuff.  Who cares?  Just move here!.”  So that’s what I did.  I got my TN Visa, and just moved there.  

Even from my very first day at that job, working with Tori and Caitie just felt right.  Apart from us all having similar senses of humor, our work styles and sensibilities just seemed to click.  Over time, we all realized that our personal and professional moral codes truly aligned - but, we weren’t able to adequately exercise our values within our present jobs.  And that’s how the idea of Outspoken was born.  Three best friends who wanted better for themselves, the industry and the world.  

This past year has only solidified the unshakeable bond that we share.  We fight, we talk, we laugh, we cry (I cry the most), and we have so much fun working together.  Our speakers and clients sense that we can truly be ourselves and do our best work.  We are punching above our weight class, but we are mighty and up for the challenge.  Having the legendary speaker’s agent, Dave Twombly, join our team has only made us that much stronger.  I could not be prouder of all that we’ve accomplished this past year, and of the exceptional roster of speakers that we get to represent.  I consider myself a very lucky person to work with such gifted event planners who want to boldly educate and make a difference.  And I’m most grateful that I get to wake up every morning, and work with my two best friends.  

Thank you to everyone who has been an ally, a friend, and a supporter in Outspoken’s first year.  We cherish you. 

From Caitie:

Starting a business is hard. Everyone says it, and everyone who has done it, knows it’s true. Starting a business knowing you have a mountainous challenge to overcome before you can serve your first client, may to some seem downright reckless. And finally, starting a business that involves taking on huge challenges right out of the gate, with two of your closest friends as partners, might be seen by some as the biggest risk of all. And the truth is, in many cases it is. Our relationships are the most important things we have in life, and you put those on the line when you charter into the unknown territory of starting a company.

But as we learned, and as I knew in my gut when we first started on this journey, the “trifecta” that is the co-founders of Outspoken were, are, and always will be a force to be reckoned with. When the finish line was out of view, and the challenges seemed insurmountable, our loyalty to each other and our shared dream fossilized. When one of us needed support, the others were there to give it. The individual talents and abilities that we each bring to the table are diverse and strikingly complimentary. My weaknesses are covered by my partners' strengths. But above all, it is our shared passion for what we are building, the messages we are helping to spread, and our unwavering belief in each other that makes me so proud every single day to call these two women my co-founders.

Although today marks the official first birthday of Outspoken, the path that led us to our launch date began much earlier and was, in retrospect, the best possible journey we could ask for. It enabled us to build trusted relationships in our industry and garner countless advocates for Outspoken along the way. Most importantly, it brought us together and also led us to our dear friend, Dave “Proff” Twombly, who was Outspoken’s first champion, and is now our partner and colleague.

Through the support and loyalty from our talented speakers, industry comrades, friends and, of course, our families, we found outside affirmation that we were doing the right thing. And for that we are eternally grateful. Through the support of my co-founders, Tori and Tara, and our partner, Dave, I have daily affirmation that I am doing the right thing. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Borrowing a little message on empathy

The divisiveness we're seeing these days, especially online, has turned us off from sharing some of our insights and understandings on many topics in a post-election era of President Trump. Not because we don't have an opinion, the experience, or the passion for certain subjects, but rather the magnetic pull towards arguments, staying on the defense, and lack of engagement in hearing the other side has left us (and many others) exhausted. When there's little compassion shown for others despite our shared values, it's hard to determine where many stand in support of humanity as a whole.

When reading this recent piece from Amy Jo Martin, the ideas of empathy (although obvious to some) speak to how we move forward and create a conversation, rather than an argument, around understanding our differences and finding a way to operate and coalesce together as a United States of America.

Here's an excerpt:

"I came across this video that brings science into the equation. Yes, science! It’s refreshing after an abundance of subjective opinions floating around. I spoke with Poppy Crum, neuroscientist and Chief Scientist at Dolby Labs, and she explained how we literally and physiologically have different realities. We discussed the power and opportunity in understanding that what we see, hear and feel differ. Literally. If we realize we all have slightly different information going into our equations, there’s a chance we can be more human and empathetic.

While some of this is intuitive, the knowledge allows us to potentially transcend our emotions when we’re encountering a challenging opinion and realize the opposing opinion we’re facing was formed based on different information than we have. In the talk, Poppy also explains that immersive technologies can be extremely beneficial in linking our unique sensory perceptions with shared human understanding. Science can serve as a common language. Try watching the video and discussing it with someone who may have a different point of view than yourself. There’s a great deal of exploring left to do around the science of empathy."

- Published by The Huffington Post on February 18, 2017. Full article here.

Outspoken is coming for ya, 2017!

Let's make this the year of redemption—redemption for equality, diversity, education, & candor. Let's empower each other with positivity and educate each other with intention. Let's speak for those who cannot. And let's silence those who speak too much. For powerful speech can shape lives and incite change. And we cannot wait to share the opportunity to do that with you.

Caitie, Tara & Tori

Grow a mo, save a bro... Let's talk men's health

This month, we’re all about men’s health. In honor of Movember and Adam Garone, we want to talk about the topics men avoid—checking for testicular cancer in the shower, suicidal thoughts, scheduling a prostate exam.

In particular, we want to share more about Adam. Adam recently left his role as CEO of the Movember Foundation, as he begins to focus on creating and building new fundraising products and becomes the chief advocate for men’s health.

Adam is particularly interested in combating the suicide rates that plague men at a younger age. Earlier this year, he wrote a piece for Huffington Post and created a Facebook campaign for #itsokaytotalk to encourage men to join the conversation. Adam has had mates succumb to mental health issues and suicide, and it’s one of his main goals to engage in meaningful conversation to stop this problem with men around the world.

As women, we may get annoyed with the scruff they're growing, but we’re proud of the ribbon they wear on their upper lips in the name of men’s health. Outspoken will feature multiple blog posts, social media updates, and more exciting things regarding men’s health this month. We hope it’ll lead to thoughtful conversation and even save some lives.