Introducing Lansing Cast Member Barb Barton

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. (where are you from, family, hobbies)

My name is Barb, I was born in a small town in northern Indiana but have lived most of my life in Michigan. I am the oldest of three girls. Half my family lives in Texas, the other have here in the north. We moved around a lot when I was young. Today I live in Lansing and love to travel around this beautiful state. I am a renaissance woman and wear many hats. You may find me out in the woods foraging for wild foods, or in a canoe harvesting wild rice. I like to weave birch bark and track animals. You might see me out at an organic farm tending one of my beehives or extracting honey. Or perhaps at a concert performing my original music. I also may be at my computer working on a new book or magazine article. Or simply watching movies on TV.  

How has mental illness affected your life?

Mental illness has been a companion since I was in high school, and I believe in part was born from the verbal and physical abuse, the discrimination, and gay bashing I experienced from being out as a lesbian since I was about 12 or 13 years old in the early 1970s. Add to that sexual abuse and you have a very broken heart and spirit. To self-medicate, I turned to drugs and alcohol in my late teens and early twenties and became homeless for a short time after being fired from a job because of my sexual orientation. I floundered in relationships and became more depressed as time went on. For nearly three decades I struggled with my illness, going in and out of hospitals, out patient treatment, medications, electroshock therapy…nothing helped. I finally lost the best job I ever had, my significant other, and my log cabin in the woods due to my continued deterioration. I ended up on disability. Even though I have accomplished many great things in my lifetime, I wonder how much more I could have done if I did not struggle with depression. I wonder what it would be like to have had a long-term relationship or be married, something only recently possible for me. Or to have had a reasonably healthy romantic relationship no matter the duration. But I can’t focus on what I have missed, only what I have learned.

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

One of the things I remember from my hospital stays was that we were never told we would get better, we would only learn how to survive with our illness. I did get better and I want to give hope to others who need to know it is possible to not only survive, but to thrive! The funny thing is, through this experience, I am feeling like I am coming out as a person who has struggled with mental illness.

What inspires you to get or stay mentally healthy?

Life is so very sacred and precious, and I believe we are here for such a short time! I want to be part of LIFE! I want to be involved in making the world a better place for all living beings. I want to feel happiness when I wake up in the morning and when I rest my head at night. I will not give the power to those who hurt me. I claim it as my own and take responsibility for my health and happiness.

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

I want everyone to know there is another side to mental illness for some of us. That we must fight for ourselves and NEVER GIVE UP on finding a healing path that works for us. I hope they feel inspired to do things they never thought possible. I would like them to understand that our stories could be their stories, we are all people who just want an easy life full of love and security.

Tickets are on sale NOW! Click the button below to order your tickets to meet Barb and more brave storytellers. This is one mental health performance you won't want to miss!

Please share this post with friends and family in the Lansing area. We're all affected by mental health and addiction issues, and the more we can support each other, the easier it will be for people to seek help. This Is My Brave is proof that Storytelling Saves Lives.