Michelle Shaughnessy shares how comedy has helped her mental health

Michelle Shaughnessy by Steve Ullathorne

I uprooted my happy life in Toronto and a few months later and moved to the UK on a whim. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I just knew I wanted more than my home country could give in terms of a career in Entertainment. I was equal parts excited and nervous.

Michelle Shaughnessy by Steve Ullathorne

My first week here I spent most nights crying and wondering if I ruined my life. I was alone, lonely and scared. I tried to explore. I tried to look on the bright side, but I was close to my lowest point ever. I knew I had gigs starting the second week of my arrival, I was considering cancelling them all and just flying home. I was sitting alone in my hotel room one night when I got a message on instagram from a comic asking if I wanted to come do an open mic that night. My instinct was to say no, because when I get sad I just want to be alone and not subject myself to anything that might actually make me feel better. That’s just how my brain works sometimes. But I knew deep down I had to get out of this funk or this whole move would be a waste.

I forced myself to say yes, I walked to the venue and remember telling myself to act happy and confident so as to not show these comics I didn’t know, how truly weak I felt in that moment.

I got to the show and was greeted with such friendliness, I was floored. Why were these strangers being so nice to me? The kindness I experienced that night changed the whole course of my new life. I got onstage and as the laughter came, I just felt better. The cloud I had been carrying for the better part of a week started to lift. I felt like me again. Anyone who knows me knows I rarely stay and hang out after shows. I’m a bit more of a loner then most comics. I always made an effort to keep my life offstage very private and separate, but when I got offstage these comics that I didn’t know were still there, wanting to hang out, wanting to talk about me, about Canada, about my life. Was I making friends?

I stayed and talked for hours. And it was at that moment I realized I needed that camaraderie if I wanted to make a life for myself in London. I needed others. It was hard to admit that. My mindset and attitude change that day. I promised myself I wouldn’t say no (within reason) when comics asked me to hang out, I promised myself I’d stay at shows well after my set and introduce myself to everyone on the bill. It was FAR outside of my comfort zone to do so. But that…

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