I was born into a family of educators and grew up listening to stories about children who were poor, often came to school hungry, and lived in very difficult circumstances. These same children returned to an empty house after school and remained there alone for several hours and sometimes overnight. The stories I heard were sometimes rooted in child abuse, domestic violence, and mental illness. These stories shaped and informed my work as an attorney and social activism in the areas of mental health, child advocacy, domestic violence, and empowering women and girls. I have represented children who are abused, neglected, and dependent, advocated on behalf of children with learning differences, worked on initiatives in support of victims of domestic violence, and developed other programs designed to empower and educate women.
I have suffered debilitating bouts of depression since I was fifteen years old. My bouts of depression became more entrenched and frequent after I got married and began having children. In February 2006, I became a single parent, with few resources, and no support. Within a few months I realized that I was so despondent that I needed immediate mental health treatment and possibly medication. That realization set the stage for a long journey during which I became intimately familiar with my depression and how to manage it. Sadly, my journey revealed that I had been chronically depressed throughout nearly all of my children’s lives. As a result, I was never fully present with my children and they did not know the real me.
I want to participate in This Is My Brave to continue fighting the stigma, shame, and secrecy associated with mental illness. I believe that mental illness must be openly discussed so that sufferers will no longer be afraid to seek a proper diagnosis and treatment. It is my hope that I and others like me can live unencumbered by damaging stereotypes and negative labels.
Telling my story has been healing. It has inspired me to stay mentally and physically healthy. My story will not be authentic and honest if I do not live what I preach. So I must consume nourishing food, refrain from all unnecessary busyness, take my medication as prescribed, have fun, and most importantly get sufficient rest.
I believe that This Is My Brave will remind both the participants and audience that we are all broken in some way. Our brokenness unites us. Where I am broken my brother or sister, is strong. We are each other’s keeper. If we can support each other without judgment, it may be easier to restore and redeem our brokenness. My new mantra as I seek to eliminate stigma and educate others about what it means to live with a mental illness is #nosurrender #noretreat #noapology.