We are proud to introduce you to another storyteller from our Napa Valley cast, Cindy Ivester. The show will take place on Saturday, May 6th at the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Culver City, CA, and raised in a quiet bedroom community. My husband, Gene, is a professional real estate photographer, and I am the wedding coordinator for our other business, Napa Valley Elopements. I enjoy working with couples assisting them to plan their wedding day. We live in the rural community of Hidden Valley Lake, CA, surrounded by trees, squirrels and deer. In the summertime, there’s nothing better than drinking lemon iced tea while watching a beautiful sunset from our backyard deck. Our home survived the devastating Valley Fire in 2015, when many people we know lost everything they had. We gained a new perspective that year about what is important and what is not.
How has mental illness affected your life?
I knew something was wrong in my mid-twenties but just couldn’t put my finger on it. My behavior was reckless and impulsive. During the manic phases of my bipolar condition I’d drive at unsafe speeds, experiment with cocaine, charge up my credit cards and was promiscuous. Looking back, I am ashamed of the person I was, although I know that untreated mental illness had a hold of me. After three suicide attempts and many medication adjustments, life is more balanced and I know what real joy is. I’ve achieved many goals, which included earning two college degrees, a career in teaching, and a second one as an ER trauma nurse. It’s my husband who keeps me grounded. He is a truly strong and patient man. I feel blessed to have him in my life.
Why did you want to be a part of This Is My Brave?
I learned of the upcoming show and auditions on-line. When I auditioned, the objective was to finally tell a story I’d kept a secret all my adult life. Next thing I know, the This Is My Brave production crew told me I’d been selected for the cast! To be honest, I was terrified and nearly called to say I’d changed my mind. But the more I thought about it, I realized how important it would be for me to talk about what I’d gone through compared to the healthy place I am in now.
How do you stay mentally healthy?
This can be a bit of a challenge since my husband and I own a business, and it takes many long hours of commitment. Our dogs, Oreo and Bailey, bring a great deal of joy to our lives. We love to play with them and take them on walks. Don’t laugh, but I love doing the laundry. Really. It gives me a certain satisfaction to know all our clothes are clean and fresh. Gene and I try to plan one or two-day mental health escapes. Of course, there’s always binge watching Netflix TV shows with pizza!
What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
The news media and Hollywood present mental illness in a distorted manner resulting in overwhelming discrimination against individuals with mental health issues. My story represents a progression from hopelessness to that of victory. In the sharing of it I hope people find it encouraging. For those in the audience who do not struggle with a mental health diagnosis, my wish is they develop a new level of compassion and understanding.