#BraveLove: Valentine's Guest Post from TIMB Chicagoland Alum Marlon

Two years ago, two days after Valentine’s Day, I met Andrea. I saw her in a staged reading at the theatre I worked at. She walked on stage in a black dress, natural hair in its mesmerizing, curly glory, green eyes brighter than the “EXIT” signs to my left and right. I had to meet her and (very uncharacteristically) walked right up to her and introduced myself. Two weeks later I would audition for This Is My Brave Chicagoland, 2016. Little did I know, these two individual events, seemingly separate, magnificent each in their own ways, would work together in a way that would change my life in the best way possible.

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She helped me edit my piece, “Reflections on Reflections,” and although we had just met, beginning our relationship with mental health awareness holding such a strong position in the get-to-know-you phase is integral to our evolution as a couple. Sharing my story opened up a side of Andrea that she was not used to sharing. She was witness to each and every one of us that chose to #LiveBrave and share our stories on that stage at the Memorial Opera House. Coincidentally, the evening of TIMB Chicagoland 2016 was the night before her birthday. Seriously, I’m not making this up. Our lives are literally intertwined with This Is My Brave.

Our own discussions about mental health, faith, art, and stories of our own lives led us to a mental health professional in January 2017 that would finally answer so many questions Andrea had about herself and that we had about our relationship. “Dealing” is a word I often avoid when sharing our stories. Case in point, she doesn’t “deal” with my PTSD just like I don’t “deal” with her Bipolar III (Cyclothymia). I don’t deal with manic episodes just like she doesn’t deal with my startled responses and triggers. Less than two weeks later we found out that we were going to be parents, so on top of the new information of her diagnosis, episodes were amplified by the hormonal changes pregnancy brings.

When we got married last year, we very intentionally included a portion that acknowledges our choice to #LiveBrave together daily:

I help you and I accept your help.

I am your safe place;

Together we are brave; Together we are strong.

My wife loves me the way that I need to be loved, and I love her in the ways she needs to be loved. She accepts the ways I love, and I accept the way she loves. Because we will never cease to learn more about the other, we continue to share our stories with one another, however joyful or painful they may be. And now that we are parents to a beautiful baby girl, we are also brave for her. We are brave not only for ourselves, but for those that we love, as well as those that we do not know.

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#StorytellingSavesLives isn’t just another hashtag, it’s one of the reasons my wife is also my best friend and my partner, and I hers. Love isn’t about “dealing” with diagnoses, struggles, and triumphs. It’s about loving someone through them, in spite of them, past them.

About The Author:

Marlon is an HR professional, artist, and Navy veteran who is originally from California. His diagnosis of PTSD is not his identity, and he truly believes that #StorytellingSavesLives. He is originally from California but has found a forever home with his beautiful wife and daughter in Chicagoland.