1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m about 27 years old, and grew up in Bentonville, Arkansas with my parents, Carol and Paul, and my sister, Rebecca. My favorite authors are Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffrey, and Robin McKinley. My hobbies depend on my most recent inspirations, and typically involve creating things, whether those are leather armor sets, cloth messenger bags, or bits of jewelry. Learning is important to me, right now I’m learning new coding languages to be able to develop mobile apps, web pages, or whatever else I decide needs to exist. I live with my fiancé, John, and have been adopted as “Step-mommy” by his two beautiful daughters. John and I enjoy playing MMORPGS, largely due to the crafting and co-operative aspects. We have not been able to find the perfect one, so we are working together to build our own game.
2. How has mental illness affected your life?
While I have a high degree of intelligence, I am quite deficient in certain areas of emotional intelligence. This makes communication a huge challenge, both at work and at home. My ability to focus for extended periods of time is easily disrupted, both by my own thoughts and my environment. Unexpected things will trigger a wide range of behavior, and it wasn’t until some of the more dramatic responses occurred was I able to discover that it was happening on a much smaller scale all the time. My therapist has identified this as being hijacked by a mind that doesn’t remember traumatic events clearly. Honestly, some days it just feels as though my mind has put my life on Hardcore Mode.
3. Why did you want to be a part of This is My Brave?
I decided to be a part of our local This is My Brave event in order to shed light on the parts of my mind that I have kept hidden. It is very easy to lock away the scary parts of your mind, to try to protect yourself and the people that you love from the effects. It has taken a while, but I have learned that trying to hide it does not actually let it heal. The shockwaves kept hurting me and everybody I cared most about, but since I had hidden it, I had no idea how or why it was influencing my life. By speaking at This is My Brave, and sharing what I have hidden, I am working to help erase the stigma, my own stigma. I internalized the fear and disgrace of my own inability to function, growing to hate it. By speaking at This is My Brave, I am not hiding anymore. Perhaps this will inspire others to find their courage to speak.
4. What inspires you to get or stay mentally healthy?
My family. I want to be able to love and support them as a whole, healthy individual. I know that my mental illness reflects itself on my interactions and interferes with my ability to communicate and spend time with them. It is hard to help the ones that you love if you’ve already had to expend all of yourself just trying to keep your mental state together. By keeping my mental health stabilized, I have more of myself to give.
5. What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
As for the show as a whole, I hope the audience can understand that mental illness expresses itself in many different ways, and each person has to learn how to overcome it in their own way. Mental illness can not be fit into a box, and often it is not possible to cure it. Many people, when looking for their cure, simply have to learn how to mitigate the side effects and manage it in a way that it doesn’t interfere with their day to day life. You can not know what is going on inside a person’s head just by looking at them.
When the audience listens to my piece, I want them to step away from themselves, and take the chance of becoming vulnerable with me. It might mean lowering barriers and stepping away from their comfort zone, but I am meeting them halfway and taking the same risks. I am bringing them inside of my mind, past the scars and behind the walls. We can experience it together, and hopefully walk away with a better understanding of ourselves as individuals and mental illness as a whole.
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Please share this post with friends and family in the Bentonville area. We're all affected by mental health and addiction issues, and the more we can support each other, the easier it will be for people to seek help. This Is My Brave is proof that Storytelling Saves Lives.