Meet our Summer Video Intern Brooke Wivagg

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Once you stop looking for what you want, you’ll find what you need.

I went to the Czech Republic to try to find my passion, but it was right here all along.
10 months ago I headed across the Atlantic Ocean to the Czech Republic for a semester long
study abroad program.

Eight months ago I found myself on a flight home, with three months of the semester
remaining. I decided to withdrawal from the program and take the rest of the semester off. My
parents and I made this decision when my mental health was called into question.

I now had eight long months ahead of me at home before heading back to school in the fall,
how would I use this time to better myself? The first few months were filled with doctor’s
appointments, therapy sessions, and A LOT of Netflix.

After about three months, I decided I didn’t want to sit at home anymore. I found that my
mental health only got worse when I spent my days doing nothing but talking and thinking
about how crappy I was feeling. That’s when I found This Is My Brave. My mom was scrolling
through her Facebook when her Facebook Friend and Co-Founder of This Is My Brave, Anne
Marie Ames, posted that the organization was looking for a video production summer intern.
She immediately sent me the information thinking it could be something I might be interested
in.

Mental Health Awareness has been something I have been passionate about for years, even
before I had my own mental health problems. Too many people suffer in silence and I can’t
stand to see anyone else I love be hurt by mental illness and the stigma that surrounds it.
I went into college wanting to make a difference in the world. I didn’t want to end world
hunger, or cure cancer, I just wanted to help people feel good again and know that they’re not
alone when they’re not feeling good.

While I considered majoring in psychology, I fell in love with the news at Elon University (in North Carolina) and became a communications major and member of Elon News Network (with a psychology minor). The news has consumed me for the past three years. I’ve loved it and have decided I want to pursue a career as a news producer after graduation in May of 2018. However, my plans to change the world had been temporarily forgotten. When I found out about the internship opportunity at This Is My Brave, I suddenly remembered my ultimate goal to make a difference and immediately applied.

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to combine two of my passions: video production and
raising awareness about mental illnesses.

Not only has This Is My Brave helped me rediscover my passion, it also helped me get through
my own mental health problems. I’ve dealt with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder
since middle school and have managed it with medication and coping techniques. It wasn’t until
I was more than 4,000 miles away in the Czech Republic did I realize I had also been dealing with depression for a long time.

For years, I truly thought my terrible feelings were just normal and the result of “teen angst” and hormones. Apparently my intense and nagging feelings of loneliness and hopelessness were not normal and most teenagers did not spontaneously break out into tears. Once I realized I had been dealing with depression for years, so much made sense. Now that I had gotten to the root of the problem, I could truly work on getting better.

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At first, I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to tell my friends that I had to leave the Czech
Republic because of my depression, wasn’t this supposed to be the opportunity of a lifetime?

This Is My Brave taught me not to be embarrassed; it’s an illness, just like strep throat or pneumonia. The first thing I did for the internship was organized and named all of the shows from this year so far on YouTube. In order to properly title them, I had to listen to them to hear what they were about. I must have spent hours listening to so many brave stories; some of which sounded similar to mine.

This Is My Brave inspired me to post my personal blog about coming to terms with my depression on my Facebook page and the response I got was incredible. For days I got messages from people telling me they have been where I am and that they’re always here for me. I couldn’t believe the number of friends that told me they too suffer with or have suffered with depression. THAT is exactly the problem.

Mental illness shouldn’t be a secret. If I miss a day of class because I have strep throat, I’ll tell that to my teacher in an email, my absence is excused, and he/she will tell me to “feel better.” Why isn’t it acceptable for me to email that my depression is really bad and I need to take the day off? Why is there such a secrecy about mental illness? This stigma infuriates me and I had forgotten how passionate I was about this topic until I found This Is My Brave. This Is My Brave’s motto is “storytelling saves lives,” and I’m proof of that. I was so lost eight months ago, but after hearing other people’s stories, I began to find myself.

Just like many people with mental illnesses, not everyday is a good day. But even on the bad
days, the days when I simply can’t get out of bed, I know that I am not alone and I thank This Is My Brave for showing me this and making me realize that there are so many people out there who have felt what I have felt.

Now it’s finally time to go back to school and see if I can stand on my own again. I’m going back
with a newfound goal: to combine my passion for both the news and raising awareness about
mental illnesses. I don’t know how I’m going to that, but I’ll figure it out. Thank you This Is My
Brave for getting me to take the first step toward my goal.

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We are so grateful to Brooke for her hard work this summer and can't wait to watch her pursue her goals at school and beyond! 

If you're interested in exploring an internship with us, please complete our Internship Interest Form and we'll be in touch before the end of August.