When I started this blog almost three years ago, writing about mental illness and suicide, I did it out of grief and inspired by my Facebook friends and family. I had no idea at the time how much the world needed to bring mental illness out of the darkness. How much misinformation and stigma there really was and is.
I didn’t do it out of bravery. I hardly knew what I was doing. I honestly didn’t even consider what others might think. How their perceptions of me might change.
Now that I’m more informed, I actually still don’t care. Go ahead and think badly of me for taking medication. Or for having mental illness. For having intrusive uncontrollable thoughts of hurting myself. For needing extra sleep to stay on top of my game. For being racked with anxiety. For being so depressed some days that I want to stay in bed. Or for writing about all of this openly. (If it worries you to read those words, rest assured I’m not feeling all of these things right now. I’m just speaking in general terms about my past and future.)
Back in the spring of this year, I “met” a blogger on Twitter Jenn @bipolarmomlife who lives in the DC area. When she saw that I was walking in the big Overnight Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, she decided to walk with me. You see, she had very recently opened up about her own mental illness, and psychiatric hospitalizations. I was thrilled to have my first walking partner because I’m not gonna lie, challenging myself to raise over $1,000 and walk 17 miles was pretty daunting. Now that was my brave.
Jenny, Me & Jenn at the Pre-Overnight Reception in DC. May 31, 2013
When I met Jenn in person, she exuded a loving warmth and kindness that you don’t very often see. I could visibly see that she is a loving mother and wife, and very passionate person. The Overnight truly impacted our lives and made us very good friends. Its so nice to know that others out there just “get it.” And I’m proud of her for becoming a stunningly passionate mental health advocate this year.
Next Spring Jenn is very producing a live show in DC to combat the stigma of mental illness, called “This Is My Brave.” The project is currently on Kickstarter: This Is My Brave on Kickstarter. I’ve backed it financially, and have even vlogged for her Kickstarter site. I encourage you to back this valuable project too.
In her own words: (excerpt from Wyn Magazine)
“If anyone knows how scary it can be to talk openly about mental illness, it’s me. Having been hospitalized four times for mania, I’ve felt the weight of the blank stares from people who don’t get it. The awkwardness of having to change the subject for fear of being humiliated. It hurts, and has made me feel more alone in those moments…
One in four Americans lives with a mental illness. Chances are high there is someone in your life who is struggling right now, or has struggled in the past, or will struggle in the future. We need to stamp out the fear of being stigmatized for talking openly about mental illness. The more people who are able to speak out about their experience, the more lives we will be able to save.
Someone who is suffering at the moment you tell your story could be inspired to keep fighting…
That is why I created This Is My Brave. We’re coming together with our voices to do our small part to silence stigma and raise awareness around what it’s like to live with a mental illness. Through the sharing of personal essays, slam poetry, and original music, This Is My Brave participants will give the audience a new, more positive perspective on mental health.”
I suppose as I’ve continued to understand the stigma and misinformation out there, it has become brave of me to keep sharing. I do confess its hard for me to actually “talk” about it in person. I’m rather shy until I get to know you. I have a bit of social anxiety. Not really bad, like some, but its always there in the background. I would be a brave woman indeed, knowing this fact about myself, to speak on stage about my mental illness. That’s why I want to support Jenn and the brave men and women who will speak at this event.
If you’re in the DC area and want to attend, you can pre-order tickets by backing the Kickstarter. There are also other incentives to contribute, this cool bracelet and this lovely necklace.
Please think about supporting This Is My Brave on Kickstarter and let me know if you do!