Storytelling is a powerful and intimate art form. When the stories are personal, they can open up a new level of vulnerability.

Founded in 2017, CrazyTalk is a live event series that features speakers sharing their mental health journeys. Speaker stories have included depression, trauma, body image, and other difficult subjects that many in our community relate to, but aren’t always able to talk about.

Several brave individuals have stepped forward to speak, including one of LondonFuse’s contributors, Oshi Rathnayake. Oshi has shared her story with LondonFuse before, and she is one of many in our community breaking the stigma around discussing mental health.

What compels the speakers at CrazyTalk to share their stories? We chatted with two of the speakers for CrazyTalk’s February 2020 event to get their insights.

Lauren’s Story

Speaker Lauren Long is a survivor of sexual violence who wants to help other survivors in their path to healing.

Her journey has included challenges around the stigma surrounding sexualized violence. That stigma lead to uncomfortable and inappropriate questioning. “People asking what I was wearing, why I didn’t fight back, and questions along those lines,” Lauren recalls. She added that telling loved ones about her assault was especially difficult.

Another barrier Lauren faced was getting into the systems meant to help her. Her attempts to get a counsellor specializing in sexual assault trauma were frustrating. “I waited weeks, and when they did get back to me, they told me they had no resources for what I needed.”

Eventually, Lauren was able to get onto a healing path. “I am finally in a place where I have done the work to be comfortable sharing my experience,” she shared. 

The greatest challenge for Lauren is the lasting impact of sexual assault. “Sexual assault can happen to anyone and the effects of sexualized violence go beyond the momentary physical aspects,” she said. “The effects of sexual assault don’t end after it happens. Rather, they can impact one’s life years after the situation occurred.”

Lauren hopes her story will bring about a greater understanding of the trauma of sexual assault, while also sharing hope and healing.

Ashley’s Story

Speaker Ashley Burt, who local business lovers may know as the entrepreneur behind Wooly Maple, is also speaking at CrazyTalk. She will be sharing her story of living with Borderline Personality Disorder.

One battle Ashley has faced is employment, especially before her diagnosis. “While I was living with undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), my illness made it near impossible to maintain and keep a job,” she shared. “For years I went through cycles of landing a great job, doing well at it, but then as my illness became harder and harder to manage my performance would slip.”

ashley burt wooly maple crazy talk mental health london ontario
Ashley smiling in happy times. Photo provided by Ashley Burt.

Even with a diagnosis, Ashley’s challenges persisted. “a new barrier of finding a job that would allow me the time off required for treatment presented itself.” Ashley said. “I found a lot of employers ‘talked the talk’ about supporting mental health, but I was denied employment or let go from several jobs while in treatment because of my schedule limitations.”

Ashley started her business so that she could support herself while receiving treatment. She has since found support in London’s small business community. Still, her desire to be open about her illness presents a challenge for Ashley. “I have been made fun of by people I considered peers,” she shared. “I lose sales to businesses who don’t share their personal struggles with their customers.”

Despite these barriers, Ashley continues to share stories about her life with BPD so that others living with the illness know they are not alone.

“Awareness is the first step on the road to healing,” Ashley said. “I want more people to know what I’m talking about when I tell them I have BPD, because the more we know, the less we need to suffer.” 

Let’s Talk Mental Health

You can hear Lauren and Ashley’s stories, along with speaker Holly Kaupa, at the February 2020 edition of CrazyTalk on February 13 at Innovation Works. Admission is free, and full event information is available on Facebook. 

All CrazyTalk events have a mental health counsellor on-site. Following the speakers, the counsellor will lead the group in a grounding session.

To keep up to date on future CrazyTalk events, be sure to follow the CrazyTalk Facebook page.

Feature photo of CrazyTalk’s September 2019 event by KPodMedia.

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