I still remember the emotions I felt the day I first shared my story publicly. Waves of nerves rippled through my body as I held my breath, sitting at the dining room table, laptop open. A piece I had written for WhatToExpect.com had been picked up by AOL and I was about to find out that even a website as ancient as America Online was still widely read.
Phone calls, texts, emails and comments began flooding in from readers on the other side of the screen. My heart raced, palms sweaty as I wrung my hands, reading the responses and reactions from those who had seen the story.
Had I made the right decision to put it all out there? What if everything changes and I want to take it back?
I feared stigma, because we're warned it exists. That once we've been diagnosed with a mental illness, suddenly there is a scarlet letter branded to our forehead. Stigma warns,
- "Air your weaknesses and you'll be perceived as weak."
- "Talk about how your brain is different, how it needs medicine to function properly, people will call you crazy."
- "Ask for help and you'll be abandoned; no one wants to be weighed down with your problems."
I faced stigma head-on and won.
Almost all of the comments and feedback on my article were positive. The first experience changed me. I took off my mask to tell the world: "Bipolar disorder is a part of me. It doesn't define me, but it contributes to the whole of me, and I'm a stronger, more empathetic person because of it."
So suck it, stigma.
The experience showed me that there were people out there who were willing to listen. There were people who cared. That telling my story gave others hope. And that there still was work to do in order to break down the discrimination and judgement that remains.
Four months later, with the help of Anne Marie Ames, The Is My Brave was launched. And after producing a sell-out debut show, we began to grow.
We're still growing.
These past two weekends have been full of anticipation, excitement, appreciation and relief as our production teams held auditions in Boston and Iowa City, Ashburn and Arlington. We've laughed and cried, hugged and connected with our hopefuls. Here in DC, we have one more audition day next weekend in Maryland, and then casts for all three cities will be announced the week of March 2nd. We are so proud of all the brave individuals who have come out to bare their souls while telling their truths. All because they know that by sharing their story, they are making a difference.
We thought tripling our reach was ambitious, but when the opportunity arose to add a fourth show this spring, we couldn't possibly say no.
This Is My Brave is thrilled to announce that on April 18th, we will be joining forces with a Harrisburg-based non-profit organization called Someone To Tell It To, run by Pastors Michael Gingerich and Tom Kaden, and journalist and author Tim Madigan who wrote I'm Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers.
Michael and Tom's goal of creating a safe place where anyone, with any issue, can reach out to unburden themselves and to share their story, hit home for us. Their organization's mission aligns so closely to ours, and their book, Someone To Tell It To: Sharing Life's Journey, has spoken to our hearts. We cannot wait to come together for this important event.
This day-long event, entitled Creating An Authentic Life Through Storytelling will feature morning talks from Tom Kaden and Michael Gingerich, Co-Founders of Someone To Tell It To, and author Tim Madigan, followed by lunch and an afternoon performance of This Is My Brave - The Show. The free event will take place on Saturday, April 18th from 9am - 4pm at Market Square Presbyterian Church (20 S. Second Street, Harrisburg, PA).
*** AUDITIONS for our This Is My Brave Harrisburg show cast will take place on MONDAY, March 9th from 5:30 - 9pm at Grace United Methodist Church (433 East Main Street, Hummelstown, PA). ***
Stay tuned on our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for more details on ticket info. If you're interested in sponsoring the Harrisburg show, please contact Hillary Marotta, Producer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The only way to change the way society views mental illness is to talk about it openly. To share our stories without fear. And to know that someone out there will be forever changed because our bravery. We will have changed, too.