Suicide. Depression. These are topics that are often left undiscussed, but there are a number of individuals who have faced them, or know someone who has faced them at some point. Richard Taylor, a motivational speaker here in Chicago, and author of Unashamed, made the decision to share his story of depression and suicide attempts, and how he overcame them both. Choosing to bear his most vulnerable points and use his struggles to encourage the next person, Richard Taylor continues to show that your journey is not determined by the past. Get to know his story.
Tell me about your book Unashamed.
I wrote Unashamed as a self-help book based on my personal struggles with bad decisions. I was in college and felt like there was no way out, so I made a life altering decision….I tried to commit suicide. This was my third attempt but after making that decision and surviving, I decided to change my life. It dawned on me that I had a real purpose for being here! I needed to face my problems and that’s when I started healing (physically and emotionally) or as I like to call it now, ‘the process of reconstruction’. Unashamed is not only a personal look inside a young man’s struggle with family, relationships and self esteem, but is a vivid representation of the life so many people silently face.
You experienced so much at an early age, what did you do when you went on sabbatical from everyone?
During my time alone I did some serious soul searching. I said a lot of prayers and did a lot of internal reassessment of my choices. And believe me; it was agonizing because I had to revisit very painful places in my past. However, I understood that it was important, because if I was serious about being healed I had to find the root of the problem; and that meant facing the same things or people who [had] hurt me. I had to dissect every broken area in my life and truly understand where I went wrong.
What was one of your lowest points in life?
One of the lowest points in my life was right after my final suicide attempt in January of 2008. Between the emotions that led me to attempting suicide and the ridicule I received after it, I felt like absolutely nothing. Needless to say, being ridiculed didn’t help the situation.
How hard was it to pull yourself out of depression?
Wow, I’m not sure how to describe it, other than saying it was extremely hard. I don’t think the world fully understands what depression is and how it affects the mind. It took a lot of personal time and soul searching, just to gain some sense of identity. I was in it and didn’t understand it myself did for a very long time. It wasn’t until I stopped trying to sweep it under the rug, that I finally was able to face it and deal with it.
I know your book is titled Unashamed, but what inspired you to even share your story, without feeling embarrassed?
I was singing a solo in church one Sunday, and I got this epiphany that it was time to share my testimony. I didn’t realize how many people needed to hear it! The crowd was moved and surrounded me. They told me that the world needed to hear it. That was the beginning for me! I was inspired to share my story by looking at how ashamed so many people are in telling their own. I feel like there are so many issues that keep people weighed down and damaged. It’s startling! But they, no we don’t talk about it. Enough is enough! If no one wanted to address it I would! It’s time to break the silence on these “taboo issues” and let people know that they are not alone. I had to get comfortable in my own skin, and when that happened I didn’t really care about what others thought.
It’s amazing you want to share your story and empower people, what has your experience been as you speak to different people?
Let me first say, I’ve been blessed! Not many people get to interact and touch the lives of others on a such a personal level as I’ve had the privilege of doing. It has been an incredible experience for me. Not just traveling the country and speaking, but making such an impact and watching change — positive change [happening] right before my eyes. It has been such a humbling experience having people come up to me after an event and literally tell me their life story, and how they are inspired enough to want to share their own story. Silence is the real killer. When we take the time to open up and let our guard down enough to allow communication and understanding amazing things happen. Lives are literally saved!
Before you became a motivational speaker, what kind of dreams did you have for yourself?
At 25, I’ve only had one dream before I became an encouragement speaker, I’d always wanted to play professional football. But before I could fulfill that dream I was diagnosed with a heart condition. That was a really hard thing to accept, but I’m happy that it was discovered when it was. That could have been fatal. Now I have the pleasure of sharing the stage with people that I’ve admired and that feeling is just a great!
What is one of the key points you live by and use to empower people?
I have a motto- “The decisions you make in life determine your destiny and your demise.” One of the greatest gifts we have is the power of choice. I believe that when we really understand that we have choices, whether we like to believe we have them or not.