We're so excited to introduce you to our Des Moines, Iowa cast of storytellers! The show is on Friday, March 31st at the Temple Theater in Des Moines. Tickets are on sale now! Let's get to know Des Moines storyteller, Jennifer Phelps.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am an Iowa native, born and raised in the Des Moines area. The proud mother of four, I currently works as a warranty administrator for a local car dealership. Singing, songwriting, visiting local wineries, and volunteering at the Des Moines Playhouse are all things I enjoy in my spare time.
How has mental illness affected your life?
I always had exposure to mental illness with my mother since my grandmother passed away in 1986. I just didn't realize that's what it was until I was much older. I lost my mother in March of 2000 at the age of 44. She was my best friend; the loss of her was indescribable. I managed to hold it together initially as I was pregnant with my youngest child and focused on helping my dad and brothers filling the void she left. However, another death in the family two years later triggered a flood of emotions I had long since buried, and I found myself unable to cope. With both my husband and dad emotionally distant, I had no one to turn to for help. As a result, I spiraled out of control into the dark, black abyss of depression. Not only did they not believe I was ill, but they could not handle the person I had morphed into as a result. Within five years of my mother's death, I had not only been cut off from my family, but I also lost my husband and custody of my children due to divorce.
What made you want to be a part of This Is My Brave?
I wanted to be a part of This Is My Brave because I wanted people to know mental illness is real. While I am generally an upbeat person, I often hid the fact I was suffering on any given day. To admit you have a mental illness to someone is like saying you have the plague or leprosy. The public, as a whole, does not know how to respond to someone with a mental illness, mainly due to the stigma surrounding it. Putting a face to mental illness, and a face you may know, hopefully can humanize the illness.
What inspires you to stay mentally healthy?
My inspiration to stay mentally healthy is the desire to avoid repeating my behavior while in the depths of depression. There are many things I said and did during those years of which I am not proud. Some of those I hurt have forgiven me; others have not. I have no desire to experience that again and have since learned the environments in which I can be triggered. In addition to the lessons of past experience, I also rely on my faith to get me through not just the rough spots, but everyday life as well . I can honestly say if I had not had God in my life then and now, I would not be here sharing my story with you.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
If the audience could take one thing away from the show, my wish would be for hope. No one needs to suffer alone. Mental illness does not discriminate; it crosses all barriers. In the end, though, for all who have been affected, there is hope.