The Stacy-Ann that you see today wasn't built in a day. It took almost 10 years of failures for me to realize that every closed door meant that God was REDIRECTING me to my purpose. It took a year's battle with anxiety and suicidal depression for me to realize that the life I've been given is a gift and that the key to my success was within ME.
My journey with depression and anxiety started in 2010, when I decided to move from Toronto to Vancouver to pursue my acting career. My goal was to get famous like Halle Berry. I mean, we share the same birthday ---- so why not the same success? Right? The plan was to stay in Vancouver for a year and then move to L.A. It was set. I was good to go. I saved up enough that year, found a one-bedroom condo in Vancouver and also secured an acting agent.
I was on top of things! Or so I thought....
Things took a different turn and I got really sick and had to push back my move until early 2011.
In Vancouver, I was going for auditions after auditions. I'd get call-backs, but no bookings. I became anxious. Anxious to be successful by thirty. To me, thirty was the big scary number and I felt that since I wasn't married, didn't have the 2.5 kids or the house with the white picket fence… then I should at least have the amazing career!
Age thirty was approaching soon, and so I subconsciously pressured myself. So much so that I got a massive case of anxiety.
I was doing everything fast.
I brushed my teeth fast.
I ate fast.
I walked fast.
I just couldn't sit still for minute.
Sleeping was hard. I barely slept and my heart was constantly beating like a million miles per second.
My roommate noticed the change in my actions and suggested that I had anxiety. I remember going into my room, closing my door, sitting down and thinking to myself, "Anxiety? White girls get that!" I was so ignorant to the fact. And to be honest, I had never heard of a Black person having 'anxiety'. It was just unheard of.
But to feel better, I decided to check myself into the nearby hospital. Turns out what I was experiencing was definitely anxiety. So much so, I was prescribed Valium. I remember looking at the package and thinking, "Valium… I did a scene in acting class and Valium is the crazy-people drug. Are they telling me that I'm crazy?" I thought I could beat my anxiety by repeating the mantra, "Mind Over Matter." It worked! But only for a couple days. Then it, came back! Full force! And unfortunately, I was hospitalized.
Before I digress further, I want to take a slight moment to describe my anxiety.
Picture having your heart in a cage, and that it's beating a million miles per second.
The faster your heart beats, the bigger it grows.
But yet, the smaller the cage gets.
I dealt with my anxiety for weeks until my family begged for me to come home. But the thought of coming back to Toronto with no film credits and not the huge Superstar I thought I was gonna be, spiraled me into depression. By the time summer came around, suicidal thoughts plagued my mind. Every. Single. Day.
My depression came in two stages:
I had days where I went without brushing my teeth, combing my hair, taking a shower or simply getting up out of bed. And. I had days where I my nails were done, my hair was laid, I was rocking the hottest outfits and I was partying and having a good 'ole time.
You see, I knew I was sick on the inside, so I tried to mask it by having FUN! Fake fun. Until I couldn't mask it any longer.
I went to my Dad for advice. My Dad, being the old-school Rastafarian Jamaican and the wisest soul that I know, could not help me. His advice would to me was, "Drink some tea, read your bible and pray about it." And let me tell you, I was drinking tea after tea after tea. I was reading my bible and I was praying constantly---but nothing was working. I was still depressed. I was still plagued with suicidal thoughts and I was mentally drained. Seeing that he couldn't help me and that I was about to resort to help from my friends---my dad said the most ignorant thing that saved my life! He said, "Since yuh love to chat suh much, how bout yuh tell yuh business to strangers!" You see, his fear was that if I told a friend, they would tell another friend and somehow it would reach back home (Jamaica) that he was raising a 'Mad Daughter' and nobody wants to claim a 'mad' member of their family.
I took my Dad's advice and told a stranger. I felt better. Then I kept on telling more strangers, and the more I spoke about my fears and anxiety, the BETTER I felt. I felt lighter each time. Telling strangers became my therapy. Eventually, I was getting better.
The big 30 came about and I decided to go to Mexico to celebrate my birthday. The day before my birthday, I sat down and had a serious talk with God. I was frustrated and I wanted to know my purpose for being here on earth. With tears in my eyes, I told God that I needed a sign as what exactly I was put here for. I reminded God that I had did everything right and everything by the book to become a successful actress. I went to theatre and film school, I took the expensive photos, I got the agent, I went to TIFF every year with hopes of meeting that director who was going to change my life by putting me in his film, etc. I even went to live in Vancouver. Like, what was I doing wrong? Frustrated and tired, I fell asleep with tears in my eyes. An hour later, I woke up to a show on the E! channel about actors who have made it by doing their own thing! I thought, "Hmm, this is strange?" But in the back of my mind, I took it as a sign.
When I got back from my vacation, a friend reached out to me and asked for my help to co-host his event. I did. After the show, the owner of the venue came up to me and offered his place to me, should I ever consider putting on my own show. I thought it was strange -- but, again, something in the back of my mind pondered the offer.
That winter (2011), I decided to draft up a show that I would like to produce in spring of 2012. It would marry all the elements of art into one production and give the stage to the underdogs. I would call this show "The Mystic Effect."
Some people told me that it wasn't a great idea and that it wouldn't work without a famous/well-known person. I opted out of listening to them and instead listened to where God was leading me. The show was a success and I decided to make it an annual event!
The following year I launched my production company, Stacy-Ann Buchanan Productions.
Now this is where my story gets more interesting. And this is where my Pain began to transition into my Power.
The buzz of my company launch brought about some negative reactions and some people were wondering who this Stacy-Ann is! Not knowing that this so-called overnight success actually took 10 years to build.You see, some people will always see your shine but never see your grind.
It was time to share my story.
I decided produce a documentary that will include the stories of other Black Canadians who were brave and vulnerable to share their journey with mental health.
I took a year and did some intensive research on mental health within the Black Community. I put together an immaculate team and I got five people, including myself, who were ready to speak on their trials and triumphs with mental illness.
I named the documentary, The Blind Stigma: Mental Health within the Black Community. Also included in the documentary is a pastor and a psychologist who shared their thoughts, experiences and professional expertise on mental health. Too many times within the Black community we are so quick to say, "Pray about it" when it comes to mental illness but are not inclined to say, "Seek professional help." We are quick to seek a doctor for our physical ailments but turn the left cheek when it comes to our mental health. I am a firm believer that if you can see a doctor for your physical being, then you should be able see a doctor for your mental being as well. It was important for me to convey this message in the film.
My team and I also went to the streets of Toronto and got a few Black Canadians views on how mental health has/is seen within our community.
The Blind Stigma premiered on February 7, 2015 to a packed house of over 400 people, and is now an award-winning documentary. It has been featured on several major TV stations and media outlets across Canada, the U.S and the Caribbean; screened at several high schools, colleges, universities, churches, and workplaces; and used for several workshops. It has opened the dialogue about mental health within the Black Community while actively raising awareness and changing the stigma. And to top it off, The Blind Stigma made Canadian History by being the first documentary produced in Canada that talks about mental health within the Black community.
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Stacy-Ann Buchanan and I'm an actress, producer, filmmaker and mental health advocate.
I am just a girl who turned her:
Can'ts into CANS.
Dreams into PLANS.
Pain into POWER and her
Passion into her Paycheck!
...and at the end of the day, I am humble to know that I am just getting started and that God's plan for my life is always Greater than I could ever imagine!
Stacy-Ann Buchanan is an actress, film-maker and mental health advocate. She is also the founder of Stacy-Ann Buchanan Productions.