IOCDF Lead Advocate Tom Smalley isn’t shying away from heavy conversations in his new podcast, he’s encouraging them.
Smalley, co-founder of Anxiety in Athletes and a long-time IOCDF Lead Advocate recently launched Smalls’ Talk, a podcast he describes as “a faith-filled journey to destigmatize mental health in athletics and uncover your path to peak performance.”
With his podcast, Smalley hopes to reach audiences who may not otherwise be a part of conversations surrounding mental health.
“I want to make sure it gets to all ears,” Smalley said, expressing his hope that the podcast will reach those who may not have time to sit down and watch something or read an article. “ I think it just improves the reach we have with our awareness mission,” Smalley said.
Smalley’s audience, he said, is not just athletes, but parents of athletes, coaches, athletic administrations, “the whole nine yards,” he describes. “I’m trying to reach organizations and teams that may not have the topic of mental health at front of mind.”
Each Smalls talk episode features guests who share their personal experiences and offer hope through them.
“I think one thing the podcast is definitely trying to show is that we shouldn’t be afraid to be vulnerable or show our vulnerability because our vulnerability can inspire someone else and could end up being our greatest strength,” Smalley said.
To be able to work on the podcast, Smalley said, is “amazing.”
“A lot of thanks to the IOCDF for what they have done in the past few years,” Smalley said. “When I first started advocating and speaking at conferences this is something that I wasn’t sure would ever be in the cards but it’s something that brewed in my mind for a while and then it just took off.”
“This work isn’t easy, it’s an uphill battle for sure,” Smalley said, noting that his reason for getting involved is personal.
“The reason I got into this work is because my OCD journey started when I was 15,” Smalley said.
Smalley described being diagnosed with chronic anxiety and depression at a young age, and as a child feeling “even more different than just having anxiety, this anxiety was constant and tore apart my days.”
“It got to a point where I remember wanting to end it all when I was a sophomore in High School,” Smalley confided.
“I realize now that it’s such a hard disorder to understand when you’re not living it, but when you’re in it, it’s a different beast” Smalley said.
“People always label OCD as just being organized and liking cleanliness and while there is a contamination subtype, it’s so much more complicated than that,” Smalley said.
“But just to paint a picture of where my journey started, I had these unbelievable, impossible thoughts,” Smalley said, noting that he was doing up to twelve or fourteen hours of compulsions each day.
“I started feeling isolated, that I was crazy, and I was weird when the reality is that OCD does impact a lot of people. It has been rated one of the ten most debilitating mental health disorders,” Smalley said.
“Thankfully, I’m truly blessed with that support system to this day, through months of therapy and intense therapy sessions I’ve learned how to cope over eight years. The thing is there are always ups and downs but what therapy and medication provided me was a new hope,” Smalley said.
Smalley’s desire is for others to experience that same hope, and beyond.
“We don’t want people in the OCD community and just in the mental health community to just survive or function, we want them to thrive in their lives they deserve to have such a fruitful and fulfilled life and so that’s what this podcast is to me, trying to highlight holistic health and wellness and how you can thrive in your life and just learning something along the way,” Smalley said.
“My goal with this podcast, and with Anxiety in Athletes is showing the authentic me, showing authentic athletes what they really are like and what they go through on a day-to-day basis,” Smalley explained.
Smalley hopes that in hearing from others, listeners will be inspired.
“It won’t ever be done in one episode, but I think we can do a lot of good with this podcast and I’m so excited about it.”