Piatt: I'm sharing my story with mental health to help you share yours
Fargo native Bryan Piatt started struggling with anxiety in middle school, and it followed him into a broadcast journalism career. Now, he's sharing his story in hopes of bringing more people into the conversation. Forum Communications is proud to bring you his podcast, "Take What Serves. Leave the Rest."
Sitting in the lunchroom at Fargo’s Agassiz Middle School in 6th grade, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by a feeling that shook me to my core.
It was as if I wasn’t real. I felt like I was all of a sudden living in a dream, separated from the world around me — almost like I was watching a movie. I had no idea what I was experiencing and became consumed with the fear that something was terribly wrong. Was I losing my mind? Did I have a brain tumor? Will I be stuck feeling this way forever?
It wouldn’t be until college that I would learn that what I was experiencing was something called “depersonalization/derealization”.
This experience had a profound impact on my mental health and began a process of being hyper aware of everything that was happening for me internally. Every thought, emotion and sensation in my body felt magnified.
A heart palpitation led to fear that I was having a heart attack. A swollen lymph node caused deep fear that I had cancer. The slightest hint of dizziness brought on panic that I was going to pass out. This internal noise was a steady fixture during much of my life through middle school, junior high, high school and college.
In college I finally started learning more about “anxiety” and worked with a therapist for the first time to develop tools to maneuver it.
After college, I began a career in broadcast journalism as an anchor and reporter, eventually landing at KARE 11 in Minneapolis. As my career progressed, anxiety came along for the ride. The mental noise that used to focus on health-related anxiety, started to shift towards things like relationships and my own character. I started struggling with panic attacks on live television and also started to more deeply understand how obsessive-compulsive symptoms were part of my story.
In 2019, after stepping off the air to take care of my mental health, I publicly shared my story. Since then, I’ve had the honor of talking about mental health with audiences, both in-person and online. I launched the “Take What Serves. Leave the Rest” podcast as a way to provide a safe space for us to have conversations about mental health, and I also started graduate school for mental health counseling.
My intention all along is to help others feel less alone. When you struggle with an active, sticky mind it can often feel like you’re the only one. I truly believe that when someone has the courage to share their story, we all grow a little stronger. I hope to be a small piece in that process for others.
I still have tough mental health moments, and yet I’m so grateful to have more tools in my mental toolkit to maneuver them.
Together, we journey ahead. One moment at a time.
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