Meet Iowa City cast member Alyssa Turcsak

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Hi - I'm Alyssa! I am just shy of 24 years old and grew up in Davenport, Iowa. My family moved to Indiana but returned when I was diagnosed with childhood cancer. I underwent 2 years of chemotherapy and now am cancer free - YAY! I now live in Vinton, Iowa with my boyfriend and his family until beginning on our next adventure as he begins grad school this fall. I am grateful for their love and support. I love art, reading, Jason Mraz, coffee, love and the nonprofit sector. 

How has mental illness affected your life?

Mental illness has taken parts of me that I love and morphed them into shapes I don't recognize. I keep identifying as this energetic and optimistic young woman that has, in reality, lost some of it's spark due to depression and anxiety. With academics always being a strong area for me, mental illness has affected my performance in school and I failed classes. I had to attend an extra year of college due to a particularly rough year. My hope is that I will not feel defined or limited by this as I move forward but it will simply be something that makes me stronger, braver. 

Why did you want to be a part of This Is My Brave?

I've always tried to hide the fact that I was struggling because I wasn't "supposed" to be the girl that did. Everyone always told me that I was "so happy" so I tried to be that for them. Once it began to become obvious in daily living that this was something I couldn't ignore, I slowly began to advocate for myself. A friend in college asked me to share some of my struggles in a video geared towards Suicide Prevention on campus and it was so empowering to use my voice to help those who might not feel able to share theirs. I've often felt that my illness wasn't as bad as others so I was hesitant to participate in the show at first but Brook, the producer, assured me that if she had a nickel for every time she heard that, she'd be rich. 

I'm also hoping to reach those who feel unloved or not good enough. I lost a close friend from college this past November to suicide so I'm doing it so that the world doesn't have to lose any more beautiful people like Dan. 

What inspires you to get or stay mentally healthy?

I'm inspired to get and stay mentally healthy for myself. There have been times where I've felt overwhelming hatred towards myself and I realized that there's only one me so I'd better make that me the best I can be. Corey, my boyfriend, has been an incredible support system. I am amazed at his unconditional love through the bad times and it gives me hope that I'm a lot cooler than I give myself credit for sometimes. :-) We've recently began a fitness journey to practice healthier habits and this has been profound for my mental health. I also enjoy the solitude of nature to center myself. 

One of the biggest inspirations outside of my own little world has been learning about peers and strangers sharing their own stories with mental illness because it gives me a feeling of community. I appreciate being able to feel as though I'm not the only person who has ever felt like they were dying from a panic attack. It makes me feel okay. 

What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?

Everyone has struggles. You are not alone. You are worth it. You are needed. Every person has something they can give. You have that, too. Sometimes people who seem like they have it the most together are the ones who need the most help. Give yourself authentically to people with an open ear and heart. Share your story and never be ashamed of who you are.

Join us in Coralville on May 13th at the Coralville Performing Arts Center as Alyssa shares her story along with her castmates, to shine a light on mental illness. We hope to see you there!