Character Matters - Thank You For Telling Your Story
Sharing his emotional struggles has given Wes Woodson a purpose. One where he speaks, and school children around the country hear themselves taking to themselves.
Wes Woodson ’16 describes his days growing up and going to school as something resembling a swan. On the surface, he appeared graceful, majestic, and seemingly untroubled, but below the waterline, he was paddling for his life. Parental troubles throughout middle school and a vicious cycle of anxiety and depression relating to school performance and success followed Woodson from CM to Babson College to a watershed moment that he’d been hiding from the world came crashing down. “I was at the lowest point in my life,” he recalls. “And I’m thinking it’s a lot easier to just not be here anymore.”
Fast forward and the Sharon native was attending group therapy sessions. But he was still hiding, still confused as to what to do, while listening to people just like him struggling with the same debilitations. “Now I’m in the program and they give me a handout,” says Woodson. “I’ll never forget the three words on the top, ‘Change your story.’ I never thought I could change.
I thought I’d always be seen as a victim, as the kid who could never really speak up for himself…that quiet kid. But wait, here’s a chance to rewrite it?” With this permission, Woodson began to pen journal entries about his struggles. And this led him to write and publish his 2021 book, I Have Anxiety (So What?): The Unapologetic Guide to Owning Your Anxiety. To promote the book, he gave talks around the Boston area, he even returned to CM for an evening during Movember – men’s mental health awareness month in 2021.
But what needed to happen was to get the message out to the people who needed it the most: school kids who were suffering in the same way Woodson had suffered. This calling had led him to travel the country speaking to school-age-children and their parents from Minnesota, to California, Missouri to Utah and many other parts. Recently, one night after speaking in rural Minnesota at a middle school, Woodson received his best affirmation that his journey is the right one. “Returning to the school the next day, I was stopped by a parent in the hallway. They told me that their son had come home last night and talked about Barack Obama at the dinner table. The parent asked, ‘Did you start this conversation?’ I told him, yeah, that was my presentation. Then he said, ‘He also told me he has anxiety. Was that you as well?’” Woodson’s talks are imbuing school kids around the country with the courage to talk to their parents about themselves and their struggles. “I don’t care if it’s one student or 10,000 students,” says Woodson. “If kids are going home and starting mental health conversations with their mom, dad, or their guardians, then my job is done. The story of you today doesn’t have to be the story of you tomorrow. You can change it.”