How it all started
In August of 2011, more than six years after Jennifer Marshall's bipolar disorder first surfaced, she decided to start a blog. It became a place where she turned to write about her life as a wife and young mom to two small kids, and writing helped her begin to heal. She titled it: Bipolar Mom Life.
Jennifer wrote anonymously at first, because she was afraid of being judged. She also worried that disclosing her mental illness may make future employment opportunities difficult. For eighteen months, Jennifer wrote and found community online. Other writers who were openly sharing their stories of overcoming mental illness inspired her, and when she landed her first paid writing job, Jennifer decided to stop hiding behind a pen name.
When WhatToExpect.com published her first article with Jennifer's byline, it was also picked up by AOL.com (the parent company). The outpouring of support and gratitude when that piece hit the Internet with her real name was overwhelming. She knew immediately that disclosing was the right decision. She could finally talk about all parts of her life, and not just the shiny, fun moments.
About six months later, Jennifer had the idea to launch a theater show. She wanted to give others the same opportunity she had - a stage on which to share their story of living a successful life despite mental illness. Jennifer met her Co-Founder, Anne Marie Ames, at a mutual friend's party and recruited her to help put the project out to the world.
Jennifer and Anne Marie launched This Is My Brave on Kickstarter in October of 2013 and the excitement surrounding the project grew and grew. They offered tickets to the first show and handmade "BRAVE" bracelets, among other items, as rewards for financial pledges of support. Within 31 days, the campaign had surpassed their goal of $6500 to fund the first show, ending up with over $10,000 in contributions. It was clear that the community wanted to help bring this show to life - they believed in the vision and Jennifer and Anne Marie were dedicated to delivering an exceptional production.
In May of 2014, This Is My Brave debuted our first ever show in Arlington, Virginia at the Spectrum Theatre to a sold-out crowd of nearly 400. We became a 501c3 nonprofit and went on to create more shows in cities across our country. In 2015, volunteer producers joined our team to produce shows in Harrisburg, Boston, Iowa City, New York City and Los Angeles, along with a second annual show in Arlington. By 2016, we had doubled again, with volunteers again contributing their time and energy to create shows for their communities. 2016 we featured shows in Greenville SC, Valparaiso IN (Chicagoland), Denver (spring), Iowa City (year 2), Arlington (year 3), Denver (fall), Washington DC, and Baltimore.