Author Sherry M. Joiner

Author Sherry M. Joiner

Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Disorder Public Speaking


My first “public speaking” experience was in English Class, my junior year in High School. It was one of my finest moments, but I was critical of myself.

I gave a presentation on The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams with another classmate. While I delivered it I could sense the other students in the class being turned off by my self–consciousness. Baring pressure on my tapping right foot and fidgety nimble fingers, I shifted my eyes from paper to the students, holding my stomach tight with one hand, as I stood behind the podium with my speech in the other. I would turn my head, now and then, and sputter my words into the atmosphere, sending airs of arrogance to my recipients. Keeping focused on the vision of the menagerie of animals that entered my head and a fantasy about me and my high school boyfriend getting married (which was never going to transpire), I tried to speak my next syllables as effectively as possible.

Sometimes fear and anguish held me back from saying the right thing at the right time. I stammered. And the attempts I made to liberate my mind by breathing deeply; relaxing one hand and then the other, and one foot and then the other, created all the more tension inside of me. I guess the nervousness was a result of me smoking 2 cigarettes and getting high enough to type my paper all night long, in hopes of getting top marks from my teacher.  Yet, the tension, shakiness, and loss of words, eventually subsided. I discarded my emotional connection to the play and the thought that I transferred my emotions onto the students, and I had a better time with it. I began focusing on the why and the wherefore of the play and the brighter side of life, and my symptoms went away.

Some students weren’t embarrassed to tell me that I was lacking in poise and self-control. “You shook all the way through it,” they would say. Others shied away from the critical remarks and remained silent about my nervousness.“Good speech!” “I couldn’t have done it better.” They would tell me. They made me feel like I was on top of the world. Finally, I felt like I belonged again and had regained my self-esteem.

Now days, I give speeches for In Our Own Voice for NAMI. My thinking is clearer and I have more self-confidence.  I take my time and turn off the negative self- talk that holds me back from reaching the audiences. My security is intact, and when I leave the room I feel a sense of gratification. I have helped the audience members learn more about NAMI and schizoaffective disorder. They are grateful.


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