This is My Brave – Opening Up About Mental Illness

this is my brave

The holidays are coming up and for me this time of year is always bittersweet. The end of October marks the anniversary of my postpartum psychosis experience. Leaves changing to shades of yellow, orange and red, combined with the smell of real wood-burning fireplaces in our neighborhood on a chilly night can take me right back to that place of fear and disbelief buried deep within my memory.

Why me? Why did it have to happen to me?

 I try to focus on the excitement of my kids deciding what they want to dress up as for Halloween and the carving of our pumpkins, turning them into traditional triangle-eyed jack-o-lanterns – the only kind I know how to make. But my mind will occasionally wander back to that scary, out-of-control time in my life. The time when the chemical imbalance in my brain took over and I needed to be put into the hospital for a week to be brought back to reality.

 And then there’s the month of December which for me will forever mark the period in my life when mental illness body-slammed me and rocked me to the core for the very first time in 2005. It happened at the peak of my young career as a recruiter, and that episode would thrust me into the darkest, most desolate year I’ve ever faced.

 Again, I kept crying out to God, “Why me?” as my faith in Him diminished to prayers barely whispered, hot tears rolling down my cheeks day after day.

 But with each year that goes by, the wounds scab over a little more, and the pain fades away. My memories of those times in the hospital will always be there; there is no erasing my mental health history. Those were events in my life that I needed to go through to get to where I am today. And believe it or not, I’m glad I’ve walked in those shoes. Or, those grippy hospital socks, I should say. I’ve reached the point now where I can say I appreciate what that time taught me.

 Although I’ve been on a solid recovery track for the past three and a half years, I still have days and nights when I struggle. As much as it may seem like I have it all put together via my public online persona, my real life can be vastly different. I have to fight my urge to stay up and write after the kids go to bed because I know that sleep is vitally important to my treatment plan. I’ve had almost eight years and many ups and downs to work on figuring out how to manage my illness and what I’ve found is I had to stop fighting and begin embracing it before things got better.

 Being thankful for what I experienced was just the beginning. This year I opened up about my true identity online in April and received a tremendous amount of support and appreciation for my openness and honesty from my family, friends and readers I have never met. In June, I participated in my first public advocacy event and it was a big one – The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Overnight Walk here in Washington, DC. And then in September, I decided to create a show for people to speak out in an effort to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental illness. I named it This Is My Brave.

 In the beginning stages of building this concept, I was lucky enough to be introduced by a mutual friend to the woman who would later become my Associate Producer and right-hand woman, Anne Marie Ames. Together we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funding we need to get this project off the ground. The Washington, DC metro area is an expensive, yet ideal place to put on a show of this nature. In June, President Obama held a Mental Health Summit where he called on the American people to “launch a national conversation to increase understanding and awareness of mental health.”

This Is My Brave will be a theater experience which will change the audience’s perception of what it feels like to live with mental illness.

 So many people have heard of the show and voiced their extraordinary support for This Is My Brave through video submissions, blog posts, and Twitter and Facebook messages. At the time of this writing, we are over 80% to our goal of $6,500 which we need to reach before November 15th. We have 18 days left and every dollar helps us get closer to hitting the goal.

 If we fall short, we’ll get nothing.

Nada.

Zilch.

And we’ll have to start over from scratch with our fundraising efforts.

We don’t want that to happen, especially since so many people have already pledged their support through Kickstarter donations and countless others have told us they want to see this project get funded because our society needs This Is My Brave.

 We think so too, and we’d be so appreciative if you’d take a few minutes to watch our Kickstarter video and consider pledging a donation to help us fund This Is My Brave. In doing so, you’re helping to end the stigma around mental illness by telling those living with mental illness that it’s okay to open up about their struggles and they are most certainly not alone. Thank you for your support.

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