How This Is My Brave helped us become friends

Sidney (left) and Carmine pose for a photo at our rehearsal this past May.

Sidney (left) and Carmine pose for a photo at our rehearsal this past May.

Cookies and Weird Minnesotan Plants: How This is My Brave helped us become friends

by Carmine Gothard and Sidney Wollmuth

     Sidney and I met during the 2016 DC This Is My Brave show. Being the only two teenagers in the cast and both from the same area and in need of rides from grownups, we naturally became friends quite quickly. During one of the early get togethers, everyone sympathized with our castmate, Heather’s, story of ATM struggles (as high schoolers, our ATM experience was quite limited, to say the least) and we bonded over confused glances at each other and random bursts of giggles at our own cluelessness.

     And cookies. There were a lot of cookies. Like, a lot.

     Anxiety can make it challenging to make friends. It makes it hard to enter conversations and walk up to new people- sometimes it’s even hard to send that first text… And depression leaves that continuous ache in your chest that honestly makes you feel like meeting new people isn’t worth it sometimes… but I was never scared to try and be friends with Sidney because I felt like she would understand. In fact, I knew she would, because the first words we said to each other were our names and the mental illnesses we suffered from. And that made her easier to approach, because I knew that if I stuttered or shied away from her she would understand… and she did. Not long after we bonded over the fact we didn’t know how to adult, we were planning our outfits, talking books and boys, and calling each other our “wellness buddies.” I know that if and when I am struggling with my mental illness I can always call her, and I hope she knows that she can always call me.

     After the show was over part of me was scared we wouldn’t be as close of friends anymore, especially since she was moving to Minnesota after school got out, but we’ve been writing letters (yes, actual paper letters) back and forth since school started up again and I could not be more grateful for Sidney.

     Mental illness is scary. It’s cruel and it tricks you to believing that no one will ever understand what you’re feeling or going through, but because of This Is My Brave, I know that I have Sidney, a “wellness buddy," that will always pick up the phone. I know that she’ll listen and she’ll understand and she’ll care. And I am forever thankful.

***

Cast members at the taping of our promo video, March 2016

Cast members at the taping of our promo video, March 2016

     The first time I met Carmine was during the shooting for the This Is My Brave promo video. The first two things we knew about each other were our names and what type of mental illnesses we struggled with. There was something so vulnerable about introducing yourself that way. The first time I meet someone, sometimes I’m trying so hard to impress them that I’m not even acting like myself. But by saying, “Hi, I’m Sidney and I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety," I was already putting the darkest side of myself out there and it made it so much easier to get to know Carmine.

     It’s not hard to find the light in Carmine. On one hand she’s a wise old soul, but on the other hand she’s a witty, lovable teenager. We became friends over our shared fascination with Zootopia and became even closer by discussing clothing dilemmas (“WHAT DO I WEAR TO THE SHOW?!”). Before a This Is My Brave rehearsal, we went to Panera together and discussed boys and life. I remember thinking how easy it was to talk to her, even about hard stuff like mental health issues.

    I am so thankful for the This Is My Brave show bringing us together. Through Carmine, I have learned how to live life bravely in the face of mental illness...and developed a love for mermaid blankets (You can be Ariel AND be cozy? What?!) Whenever I’m starting to have harmful thoughts, I know that I can text Carmine and she’ll be there for me. Even now that we live in different states, we still keep in touch, and I’ve been promising her that she’ll receive “weird Minnesotan plants” in the mail soon.


     Carmine and I call each other “wellness buddies," and while it’s true we met through mental illness, our friendship is so much more than that. I trust her and her opinions, and I’m a rather big fan of her tweets (especially the Joe Biden memes). A couple weeks ago, she sent me a poem modeled after the one I read in the This is My Brave show and it brought tears to my eyes. When you have mental illness, you often feel isolated from other people. With Carmine, it has never been like that, and I am so thankful.

*****

You can watch Carmine and Sidney's performances from our 2016 DC-area spring show on our YouTube channel. Both ladies are incredible poets and we are so thankful they chose to be brave with us.

All this week we're featuring posts from alumni cast members sharing why they're thankful for This Is My Brave and this community. Happy Thanksgiving week from all of us at This Is My Brave!

Looking for the tee shirts Carmine and Sidney are wearing in the photo above? Click here to order your own "Your Story Will Save Lives" tee!