Last night I watched the premiere screening of a very powerful Documentary online (due to the current Covid restrictions it was unable to be done in person). It was presented by Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to celebrating independent Documentary filmmakers. Following the 40 minute Documentary there was a live panel discussion as well.
The Documentary was called “One Last Chance” and featured the courageous journey of Theo Tams. Theo (now 36 years old) was the winner of the 2008 Canadian Idol title (FYI “One Last Chance” is the name of one of his songs!). The event was sponsored by both Bell Lets Talk and SickNotWeak, two very prominent Mental Health Foundations in Canada. The evening was hosted and directed by sports media icon Michael Landsberg (and his son Corey who has also been very vocal about his mental health struggles). Michael is also best known today as one of the many celebrity voices behind Bell Lets Talk Day, an incredible mental health advocate and Founder of the non-profit organization SickNotWeak. (Here is the link to a blog I wrote 2.5 years ago when I got to personally meet Michael at one of his speaking engagements; it was an incredibly moving evening for me: https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2019/04/30/my-evening-with-michael-landsberg/)
Theo tells his harrowing tale of growing up in a fairly strict Christian home in a small town in Alberta, both of which were not very accepting of the gay community (he now resides in Toronto). By the age of 7, Theo began experiencing suicidal ideations after falling victim to sexual abuse at the age of 6 which continued until he was 9. By the age of 15 Theo spent his days and nights praying he would wake up “straight” and was convinced he would be going to hell if not (his parents have since become very open and accepting of the LGBTQ community and their son). And by his early 20’s Theo turned to alcohol to help numb his pain, which was also around the same time he auditioned and subsequently won Canadian Idol some 13 years ago. His addiction, which he kept hidden from his partner, his family and his friends for many years escalated at the start of Pandemic (like millions of others around the globe) until one day when he glanced at his reflection in a store window while out for a walk with his partner and their dog and realized in that moment that he needed help. He is now currently 13 months sober. Yay Theo!
It was such a poignant moment in his journey. It was in that moment where he started taking baby steps and setting small, attainable goals for himself. His message last night was super powerful. He told his audience to trust in those first steps, even as uncomfortable as they may be.
He reminded us that we are all a work in progress and made a promise that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
He never thought there could ever be a way out of his pain but he is living proof of it and after what feels like a lifetime of pain and mental anguish he is finally living as his true authentic self and has also learned how to be unapologetic for who he is.
I didn’t know who Theo Tams was before last night, nor was I exactly sure what to expect before sitting down to watch the Documentary but I can honestly say that I am now one of his biggest fans. He performed several of his songs live during the discussion period afterwards. Each one of them hit a “chord” with me. His music communicates the messiness and vulnerabilities associated with mental health and are an intimate look into his past sufferings. You can feel his pain, his self-sabbotage, his darkness and the chaos that surrounded him.
And as he continues to express himself through his beautiful and thought provoking music as he carries on his journey toward mental health and wellness I will be listening and cheering him on.
He is an incredibly passionate and talented artist with a kind and gentle soul and a true inspiration.
By sharing his story with the world, Theo is helping so many other “Theos” who may be listening to feel less alone by letting them know that you don’t have to suffer in silence and that you don’t have to be afraid to share your story or your pain.
And to all my Canadian friends and family, don’t forget to mark your calendars for this coming Wednesday (January 26th) for this year’s annual Bell Lets Talk Day.
It’s yet again another valuable reminder that we need to “keep listening, keep talking and keep being there for ourselves and each other” (this year’s Bell Lets Talk Day motto) in order to help put an end to the stigma.
Oh and one last thing, today is National Hugging Day. A hug could be one of the most powerful things you can offer someone, even if it’s virtually. So I’m sending you all a great big bear hug from me to you today just in case 🤗
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