By Chelsi Robichaud
As most people with anxiety know, presenting in front of large groups can be terrifying. When I checked the Facebook group and realized how many people were going to be present for the Masterpieces of the Mind Gala, I turned into a metaphorical pool of sweat. A creeping sensation crawled over my skin. I knew the people at SAMH would be supportive of everyone, but I still couldn’t shake the anxiety.
When I arrived at the gala, I was met with a friendly vibe. Everyone was mingling and enjoying the art. The talent blew me away. It was incredible to see students showcasing their art and coming together to show their support for the discussion on the mind.
The team organized a great night. A counsellor was there to give a speech on the connection between therapy and art. Refreshments were provided and everyone’s art was displayed respectfully, with artists’ statements explaining their pieces. We were also graced by the presence of an artist, who painted during the event. This gave the gala a chance to expose artists’ finished products, as well as their work-in-progress. We couldn’t see into the artists’ minds, but we could watch the creative experience take place. I stood wide eyed in front of the painting for several moments, watching the brushstrokes like a story unfolding.
When I was called up to read, my nerves went into hyper drive. I read my story without looking up from the page. I tried to speak as clearly as possible. Heat rushed to my face when I noticed a typo. No one seemed to notice, and I kept on reading. Once I was done, I felt like my face was on fire. It took several minutes for that feeling to dissipate.
Friends approached me afterwards and told me that I did a good job. Members of SAMH sent me messages after the event to tell me that they appreciated my performance. The last time I did a reading, nobody approached me afterwards. It was wonderful to have my feelings validated by the community. I already knew from my involvement with SAMH that the group members would be supportive, and this confirmed my belief.
The other presenters touched on body positivity, healing, and the struggles of those who deal with mental illness. The gala was not only an event for artists to show off their talent, but to feel welcomed within a creative space. The gala allowed artists to communicate with each other and to be uplifted by a supportive community. Though most of us were most likely nervous to present, I hope everyone left feeling accomplished. It takes courage to be vulnerable, and every presenter I saw at the gala certainly lived up to that mantle.