Part of the publicity push for my book has been radio interviews. As a writer, I’m used to having days, weeks, months, even years to perfect my message. I think and fuss and think some more, until I’ve figured out exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it. Like pretty much all the other writers I know, I got into this business because I don’t like talking, and I’m not that good at it. So yeah, radio? Terrifying.
My first interview was with Dr. Liz Holifield at 411 Teen on WFSU out of Jacksonville, Florida. It was a pre-recorded segment done via phone. I spoke to her ahead of time about what kinds of questions she would ask, and I asked other advocates about good resources for teens. Then I made myself some notes to ease my nerves. When the scheduled time for the interview arrived, I was at my desk in my office with the notes. I was ready.
But, for some ungodly reason, the reception was terrible. As Dr. Holifield began the introduction, the connection started breaking up and I only heard every third word. I got up from my desk and scurried around the room, hoping the problem was on my end and that the satellite gods would smile down on me with a stronger signal.
They did not.
I rushed down the stairs, into the hallway. I ran from bedroom to bedroom, and finally ended up on my knees in my closet, where I convinced myself that the reception was somewhat better. I jammed the phone into my ear, closed my eyes, and prayed that I wouldn’t have to ask Dr. Holifield to repeat herself.
Then I realized: I DIDN’T HAVE MY NOTES.
The interview lasted an hour—some questions came through loud and clear, while others were a chopped mélange of words I had to piece together. Still, I remembered most of what I’d written down. By the end I was sweating, my knees aching, my head spinning. Then, Dr. Holifield asked me to give listeners a final thought.
My mind went blank. Nothing. There was nothing. I blurted out, “Don’t take it all so seriously!” and immediately smacked my palm against my forehead. Don’t take it all so seriously? Really? I’ve just spent an hour talking about suicide and mental health and my final advice to people is not to take it too seriously? I quickly followed up with “ask for help, there’s no shame,” but it was too late. My final thought had been recorded, would be broadcast, blasted out into the universe to echo on into infinity.
Don’t take it all so seriously.
My therapist later pointed out that I was probably giving that advice to myself, which makes sense, and made me laugh. There I was, kneeling in my closet, so afraid to make a mistake, so afraid to tell Dr. Holifield that I couldn’t hear her well that I’d worked myself into a frenzy. And really, in the grand scheme of life, it’s pretty good advice. A lot of my depression and anxiety come from taking things too seriously. But it’s not the way I wanted to end my interview. I thought about it a lot over the next few days. What would I say, if I could do it again? There are so many great (or better, at least) possibilities. What I landed on was this: Whatever is going on with you, whatever you’re feeling, say it out loud. It isn’t easy, believe me, I know. But it will help.
Sorry about that, Jacksonville. I hope you didn’t take it too seriously.