SP: My name is Shy Polley. I am a trans male from small town called New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. I’m a motivational speaker, and the co-founder of Nova Scotia Cares which is a disaster relief organization that was created during the forest fires that consumed much of Fort McMurray, Alberta.
WYL: What is your connection to mental illness?
SP: I have quite a large connection to mental illness. I started to experience mental illness myself when I was about 9 years old. From a very young age I was experiencing anxiety, later when I was 12 I began to feel my depression set in as well. During the first few months I had no idea what I was experiencing, why I was so afraid, panicky and upset a lot of the time. I isolated myself completely and spent a lot of my time trying to cope with what I was experiencing. At this time i had no idea that mental illness had run in my family. We had lost my grandmother to suicide when my mother was very young as well. As soon as my mother started to notice the signs she immediately admitted me to counselling to try and ease some of what was going through my head. Sadly, this counselling didn't help me the way we had hoped and when I got to highschool within the first 6 months I was admitted into the mental health crisis ward at our local hospital. That year on my birthday, June 11th, my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said I wanted to share my story. At that time I didn't know who I was and suffering through an identity crisis as I didn't really know what transgender meant. So, I started speaking about de-stigmatizing mental health, self acceptance, coping skills, and anti-bullying. My first presentation I called “ Coloring Outside the Lines” and I stood and spoke of my message for 2 hours by myself. After standing ovations and great feedback I realised that helping others was extremely therapeutic to me and I continued to do it. After this big turn around in my life, I started attending therapy groups at my local centre for mental health, and learned how to get better at talking to people, and being resilient. I learned how to love myself, and how to embrace the situations I’ve been faced with in life. I can’t say that my illnesses have gotten easier, because they haven’t. This past November I was medicated for my mental illnesses for the first time ever, which at first felt like defeat but I quickly realized that it was just another way to show myself how strong I’ve been.
SP: Because of societal expectations people who identify masculine persona experience stigmatization differently than female identified folk, due to the idea that emotion is emasculating. Although a lot of people know that gender roles aren't realistic this idea of men not feeling sadness still lingers.
WYL: If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would you say?
SP: If I could say one thing to my younger self it would be that your feelings are so valid, you aren't a mistake, you are who you are for a reason. You are worth it, and it gets better. You will look in the mirror and smile someday, someday you will wake up and feel at home in the body you are in for once. Someone will love you the way you need to be loved, someone will take care of you. Being trans doesn’t mean you aren't good enough.
SP: I’m most proud of myself for the contributions I have made to society specifically when I was in highschool. I worked with countless schools, organizations, and students to make our community a safer place for all kinds of people.
WYL: Who is a Role Model to you?
SP: My role model is my speaking partner, Kelsey Benoit. I’ve been there throughout her entire journey and her resilience and drive pushes me every single day to be a better person and to make her proud. She is one of the most kind hearted, supportive people you could ever know. I appreciate her more than she will ever really be able to comprehend.