Our Baltimore show produced by Our Door, is only three days away. We are proud to introduce you to cast member Eva Hicks!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a proud native of Oakland, California, and spent four years at college in Colorado where I studied political science and sociology. After graduating I moved to DC, where I now work for a Member of Congress.
I am Bipolar II, and I consciously choose to say I am instead of I have. Rather than running from this diagnosis, I have chosen to reclaim it, because I don’t believe there should be shame in having this as part of one’s identity. Instead of letting it define me in a negative way, I embrace that it has been a central part of my life and a source of great growth. I have also struggled with an eating disorder for many years, but today I consider myself a true fighter who has come out on the other side stronger because of these challenges.
My calling in life is to liberate and support others in achieving their highest self, which I believe can be done in a number of ways: through working for social and racial justice, women’s equality, and supporting others in their mental health journeys.
I recently began working towards being a yoga teacher and I hope to share with others the way yoga has helped me reclaim my relationship with my body, embrace my power, and bring balance to my life. My other hobbies include playing soccer, skiing, drinking good wine, eating good sushi, traveling, and smashing the patriarchy.
How has mental illness affected your life?
My journey with mental illness has been one of the most formative aspects of my life. My eating disorder developed early in high school, as I struggled to find myself and my identity. In my senior year I hit rock bottom and was hospitalized, which started a years long cycle of recovery and relapse. I was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and when I was 23 I was diagnosed as Bipolar II. Rather than a curse, however, this journey has been a true blessing.
Through exploring my own struggle I have learned more about myself than I could have ever imagined, and have come to find joy and satisfaction in learning about myself in this way.
One of the greatest gifts this journey has given me is gratitude. I am overwhelmed by gratitude every single day for the experiences that are now available to me. There were days - months and years, even - when I couldn’t imagine that I could travel the world, make lifelong friends, become a yoga teacher, run a marathon, or develop a loving relationship; all things that now serve as sources of unlimited joy and strength.
This journey has also shown me the absolute beauty of the human soul and the power of human connection. Every time I have opened up to someone about my experience, instead of confirming my deep fear that they would judge me in the way I judge myself, without exception they have responded with an outpouring of love.
Why did you want to be a part of This Is My Brave?
I have asked myself “what is wrong with me” more times than I can count, and I have experienced intense, sometimes debilitating feelings of shame. If there’s one thing I want others to know it is that you are not alone and there is nothing wrong with you. Those of us who struggle with mental illness are not broken, and we may be the strongest person you know. I hope that by opening up I can empower others to embrace their journey in the way that I’ve embraced mine.
I also want people to understand that there is no hierarchy of illness. The “severity” of a mental illness, the clinical diagnosis, or lack thereof, is irrelevant; each of us deserves self care, connection with others, and love, and I believe that it is only by opening ourselves to others that we can truly and fully experience this.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
A journey through mental illness doesn’t have to be a tragedy. I’ve felt a lot of pain, but today my story is one of victory. When every minute of every day feels like the greatest battle of your life, it’s so tempting to give up. To those who are struggling, I hope that by sharing my story it will encourage them to stay open to the possibility that it will get better. I began to heal when I dared to hope that there might be a future where I found pleasure in my favorite things, where I loved how strong my body felt when it moved, and when I was able to share every part of myself with other people. Also, medication can be a lifesaver and it doesn’t make you weak - I hope no one is ever afraid to take that route if they need it.
To those who personally haven’t experienced mental illness, I hope they will learn that mental illness affects all of, directly or indirectly. If it’s not you, there is a 100% chance someone else around you has whether you are aware of it or not.
Regardless of what each of us struggles with, even if it’s not something clinically diagnosed, we’re all on this roller coaster of life, and it’s a million times better if we ride it together.