Meet DC cast member Chris Lisle

Chris Lisle This Is My Brave DC cast member

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m from Staunton, VA (a small town west of Charlottesville, VA, in the Shenandoah Valley). It’s a nice place, worth checking out some weekend, and very different from the DC area. Little family restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, bars; B&Bs, the Statler Brothers Museum; Birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson; local music and theater -- even the renowned BlackFriarsPlayhouse.

While I was an undergrad almost 25 years ago, I met my future wife, Jenny Cathcart Lisle. We have two children, a 15 year old daughter, Phoebe (who is actually also a cast member in the 2015 D.C. This is My Brave), and an 11-year old son, Beckett (who is a very happy and active athlete).

Other than family and work life (I run a small research-based strategy consulting firm), my main hobby involves racquetball. Other than that, smoking and grilling is a fantastic way to spend time outdoors (I like Pig Butts and I Cannot Lie!). I become quite passionate about road-racing at SummitPoint, Land Rover Defender 110s, and creating home videos and playlists with Phoebe.

How has mental illness affected your life?

I wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar disorder until I was 35, and while the episode leading to my diagnosis came as a very, very an unpleasant shock to the lives of my family and myself, in retrospect it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise.  Looking back, I now realize that I experienced various periods of profound depression and alternately, anger and rage (which is unfortunately how my manic episodes present themselves).

Mental illness has profoundly impacted my family; my wife and I separated at the time of my diagnosis and our marriage has definitely not been easy on her. My daughter essentially inherited the disorder from me and we have all the typical drama + a special bonus – a gift added to the father/daughter dynamic – our mutually exclusive dysfunction!  And my son, who is about as normal, balanced and happy-go-lucky as they come, is growing increasingly frustrated with the attention, time, energy and resources that get re-directed toward dealing with his sister’s and his dad’s disorders.

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

Honestly, it was my daughter who suggested that I audition. She attended last year’s show as an audience member and found it a very moving experience. She intended to try out for this year’s show, and thought that I would be an equally appropriate cast member.

After taking a look at last year’s performance online, I decided that I had a relevant story to share. I hadn’t been on a performing arts stage in a hundred years, so the thought of an audition, and then the reality of a public performance, was a bit intimidating.

What inspires you to get or stay mentally healthy?

If I were on my own in life, I probably never would have dealt with my bipolar disorder. I would be one of those tragic cases of depressed people slogging away every day, dragging themselves out of bed, to work, and then back home, to bed. I’d be one of those obnoxious jerks who snap and become enraged at the drop of a hat. They’re certainly out there – some undiagnosed, some diagnosed and living in denial or simple apathy.

But thankfully, I had, and still have a close and supportive family.  They are most important to me.  And they inspired me to get healthy, seek treatment, meds, and counseling.  And I clearly still need it.

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

When I have shared with friends, parents and colleagues my disorder, I often hear the same reaction: “Oh, oh. I didn’t know. I never would have guessed. You don’t seem like someone who would be bipolar.” One even went so far as to ask, “Are you sure? Who told you that?”

So what’s wrong with that reaction? Well, if I don’t seem like the kind of person who would have bipolar, then who is?  The underlying assumption or connotation here is negative. I suppose it isn’t a good diagnosis to have, but neither is diabetes or asthma or epilepsy. Of course, the difference is that those are not mental disorders. For some reason, mental disorders carry a lot of stigma. But with help – from doctors, from medicine, from counselors and from understanding and supportive family, friends and coworkers we can still be productive contributors to society. That much is clear.

What hasn’t yet become clear is how much better off society as a whole would be if there weren’t such a stigma attached to mental health disabilities. Many people simply do not address their mental health disorders. They hide them, deny them, ignore them. And why is that? Because it is hard, that’s why! And without support from friends and family, and understanding from co-workers and neighbors, without encouragement, and sometimes even nudges and pushes, some of us with mental health disorders will take the easy way out. Seek no treatment, avoid medication, attend no counseling sessions. Surely, the stigma itself -- in some communities, cultures, careers and demographic groups – deters people from properly addressing their disorders.

My hope is that the built-in stigma currently associated with mental health disorders, is reduced (even just a little) by this performance.

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You won't want to miss hearing Chris {our lone male cast member!} share his story, and our other brave cast members, live on stage for one show only - Sunday, May 17th. Get your tickets today!

Eventbrite - This Is My Brave - The Show (Washington, DC)