How I Found My Voice
At school, Keenan Williams suffered bullying and exclusion. Here he tells how he recovered from the scars of that.
Often the very people who are there to save us, cross their arms and watch us fall.
Depression and suicide are both very serious issues, an important subject to speak about. Sadly we are living in a world where social media and technology (if not used for the good) can give power to abusers, cyber bullies and trolls.
For many years in my youth I suffered from mild depression because of the bullying experienced at school. I felt myself being very introverted in some aspects of my life because of the hurt inflicted by some of my peers.
Often rejection still doesn’t go well with me and even though I moved beyond that state of depression, I still have my “low days” — days when I creep back into my shell and am concerned about what others may think of me.
I remember building up walls around myself as a means of keeping people out, and also putting up various facades in an attempt to have people accept me.
Back then I would go on stage as a performer and pretend to be someone I wasn’t. I’d be “The Spanish guy” or “The Australian guy” — but never truly myself.
Back in 2012, after my 21st birthday and during the Year of Faith, I toured around Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Pretoria to give motivational talks at schools and youth groups.
The talks were good, but I could see that they were not having the impact they were supposed to have on the young people. How could I be standing up on stage telling the youth to believe in themselves, to be themselves, when I was not practising what I was preaching? How hypocritical of me!
During the last leg of the tour I decided to sit down and write down all the fears and pains I had experienced in my teenage years at school.
The following day I was invited to give a talk at Christ the King parish in Queenswood, Pretoria. I decided to share fully of myself by speaking in my own voice. It wasn’t easy, but I did it and I have not looked back since. This is my voice, this is me, and I have moved on beyond the pain.
How Did I Find My Voice?
But what changed? What led to the process of me finding my voice again?
The first step was understanding why people hurt people. It’s simply that people who have been hurt, hurt people, and loved people, love people. So if you know and were taught only hurt and hurt inflicted on you, you may find it very difficult to love someone else. And if you knew and received only love, you might be unable to hurt someone else.
This is what I needed to understand, but more importantly, I needed to begin the process of loving and accepting myself first.
I stood in front of a full-length mirror and accepted what I looked like. Accepting the man in the mirror and beginning a process of getting to know myself. I needed to begin “dating” myself.
It’s easy to come up with and to talk about the “hurt people and loved people” methodology, but the true healing was seeing the light and love of Christ in his people.
While on my trip to various Catholic youth groups in the country I felt truly at home among the youth of the Queenswood parish. It’s not because I found my voice while touring there, but because I also found the true compassion and mercy of Christ in the hearts, smiles and tears of those amazing young people I met there.
The Love of Christ
Christ had always been my friend, my comforter and my guide, especially when I felt lonely because no one wanted to be my friend. In him I could trust. But the true presence of his love I found when the youth, my peers, of that parish embraced me that day.
They showed me that there were people who cared, people who had gone through similar circumstances, and together as a church community we healed one another by loving the Christ within each other.
As a Catholic family we should stand up against all the wrongs in the world. In personal encounters, we must just remember that our words can make or break somebody.
Depression is real; it is a discussion we need to have with our youth, a discussion we need to have with our children (and adults alike), and we need to be empathetic, showing the love and mercy of Christ and also giving a positive word of kindness to one another.
As we celebrate the light and love of Christ’s birth this season, let us radiate one another with joy, peace and grace and in turn have that light shine on us too.