Last night Rich and I attended a speaking engagement at a nearby Synagogue in Toronto where the guest of honour was Michael Landsberg. This was just one of many speaking engagements Michael does throughout the year all across Canada and from all walks of life, but it was the first time I was finally able to attend. As many of you reading this may already know, Michael is a Sportscaster and former Anchor for TSN’s “Off The Record” and current host of an early morning radio show called “First Up” but to me he is so much more than all that. To me, and to so many others, Michael has become one of the most notable voices throughout Canada in the Mental Health community.
Through Michael’s own struggles with Depression and Anxiety over the last 20 years he has managed to turn his natural ability for public speaking toward helping others find their own voices. He became one of the first keynote speakers for Bell Let’s Talk Day at its conception and while at one of his speaking engagements about 10 years ago Michael declared, “Obviously I am sick, but I sure as hell am not weak. I am sick, not weak.” And from those very real words his not-for-profit organization #sicknotweak.com was eventually born in 2016.
#sicknotweak.com has many objectives but it’s main one is loud and clear. Michael wants the world to understand that mental illness is a sickness, NOT a weakness and he can be seen spreading this message and many other inspirational ones on his daily VLOG which he does 364 days per year (he takes 1 day off per year). He does his VLOG most days from the comfort of his own home in Toronto and is sometimes in the company of special guests like his own son who also openly discusses his struggles with mental illness too (and now his new puppy Wrigley makes a daily appearance as well and will bring a smile to your face no matter what kind of a day you are having).
I first started following Michael’s story a few years ago and I now look forward to listening to his short yet informative and heartfelt VLOG’s every day along with his many insightful posts and tweets at #sicknotweak.com and @heylandsberg. I feel very much a part of his community and I have even had several of my own blogs posted to their Facebook page in the past couple of years.
Yesterday was one of those days that my depression and anxiety were too much to handle for me (unfortunately lately I’ve been experiencing a lot more bad days than good ones) but I have wanted to see Michael speak in person for quite some time now and I have wanted to meet him even more than ever before and so last night with some much needed encouragement (from my therapist) I was able to do so and it was everything I had hoped it would be and more.
Before he began speaking to the crowd my husband and I were fortunate enough to meet him personally. I shared with him a brief look into my journey and told him how much I appreciate the work he does for the mental health community. He gave me a hug (of course he asked me first!) and we took our seats. He spoke for a good hour and followed it up with a question period from the audience where strangers shared personal anecdotes and struggles proving that TOGETHER we can end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
During the hour that Michael spoke he was witty, charismatic and beyond sincere in his message. EVERY single word that he spoke resonated with both Rich and I, almost as though we were the only two people in the room. After he finished speaking, much of the audience crowded around him to speak to him on a more personal level, some about sports and some about mental illness (he was missing the Raptor’s game for this, but it’s ok cuz they lost!). He had said to me when we spoke earlier that evening to come talk to him again afterwards and he really meant it because when it came to our turn he excused himself from the rest of the crowd and walked away with us to a more private area to talk some more.
As crazy as it may sound, I feel like I made a new friend last night, someone who I could reach out to if I ever need a little extra support from someone who genuinely understands my daily struggle and who genuinely understands what depression really feels like because sometimes speaking to someone who genuinely understands your very confusing, isolating and often frightening emotions can truly make all the difference in someone else’s day, I know it did for me.
Please follow #sicknotweak on Facebook and @heylandsberg on Twitter.