Today we get to know another NYC cast member, Tom Christensen.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in the northeast but grew-up in Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. I attended the University of Virginia, where I studied Drama and American Studies. A week after graduation, I sold my car, packed a suitcase, and moved to NYC to work as an unpaid intern and wait tables.
I’ve since been working at a tech startup that helps patients across the country find healthcare providers. Thankfully I love my job, so it feels more like a hobby. But when I’m not at the office, I enjoy reading, writing, painting, improv, running, Instagramming, and making puns.
How has mental illness affected your life?
I’ve dealt with depression, anxiety, intense mood swings, and more for most of my life. But the biggest battle for me was seeking help and finding the right regimen.
I was in my early twenties when I first booked an appointment with a psychiatrist. The next three years were full of ebbs and flows. It took four doctors, two therapists, 14 days in a psych unit, and a monthlong partial hospitalization to finally give me the answers I needed. After I was diagnosed as Borderline, I was able to better understand myself and my medical team was able to provide me with the proper treatment.
Why did you want to be a part of This Is My Brave?
I’ve always been very open about my battle with mental illness. Even when I sought hospitalization, I didn’t keep it a secret from my friends, family, and coworkers. (In fact, it was a coworker of mine who told me about This Is My Brave!) I saw This Is My Brave as the perfect opportunity to share my story and help erase the stigma that surrounds mental illness. I also thought the show would represent an important milestone in my mental health journey, which will continue as long as I do. Lastly, I miss the stage!
What inspires you to stay mentally healthy?
My biggest source of inspiration to stay mentally healthy is every person who has dealt with mental illness in any way, shape, or form. When I sought hospitalization, I “let the world know” via a little Facebook message. Four-hundred fifty likes and hundreds of messages and texts later, I realized I wasn’t alone in my struggle. (My anxiety also spiked in response to all the replies I’d have to write, but that’s another story.) Knowing that so many folks struggle with mental illness motivates me to continue the good fight and to be an active role model for those who have sought help, those who are seeking help, and those who might seek help in the future.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
I hope people see that mental illness affects a variety of people in a variety of ways, of course. But I also hope they see all the silver linings created by each person’s journey. I always strive to see the humor in life, even when things seem bleak. So I hope the audiences gets at least a few good laughs. Though mental illness is no laughing matter, many journeys, including my own, have had some light moments.