I am a psychotherapist with a degree in expressive arts therapies which combine the visual arts, movement, drama, music, writing and other creative processes to foster deep personal growth and community development. Like many other artist/therapists I am aware that I often don’t carve out enough time for my own self-care and art related process and I had been thinking about how to cultivate this. I was considering “what’s next?”. Do I audition for a show? Do I take a writing class?
My answer appeared one sunny afternoon while floating around in a neighbor’s pool reading the August issue of “O” magazine and coming across a powerful story about using storytelling to destigmatize mental illness through a community story telling event and suddenly I was even more buoyant than my raft on the water. I reached out to my soul-sister Amber and we agreed that we needed to produce This Is My Brave in Bentonville. By co-producing I am nurturing my creative spirit while engaging my desire to create community awareness around such an important issue.
Before my brother was even a year old, my mother left us to be raised by my amazing father. My mother fought and eventually lost a long, hard battle with mental illness. She didn't kill herself. The drug regimen she was on since the 1970's just wore her body out, and she died suddenly. We've come a long way since the 70's, but we still have so much to learn.
My name is Amber, and I'm a single mother to three, now grown, children. One of my twin girls was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder when she was 13, and I constantly fight my own battle with depression and anxiety. So I've been a part of the mental health community in one way or another for as long as I can remember. I got involved with theater in high school, and when my soul sister Lauren brought this program to my attention, it just felt like the perfect fit for us. We didn't know anything about how it worked. We just knew we had to do it. So here we are. Doing it!
I'm so proud to be a part of this amazing program to help end the stigma of mental illness. I can't think of anyone who hasn't been affected in some way, and still so many of us are still afraid to talk about our experiences. I hope This is My Brave will help all of us to open up a little bit, and to not be afraid to share our stories. I know it's already helped me.