Say hello to our new volunteer Leigh!
Hi! My name is Leigh and I am an almost 40 year old full time working mother and wife. I am originally from a small town in NC but moved away when I was 21 to Los Angeles, CA (I know… go big or go home).
At 24 my job moved me to Northern Virginia where I met my husband shortly after. I have been with my husband for 15 years and together we have a vibrant, fun loving 6 year old and recently rescued 2 Coton du Tulears.
How did you find out about This Is My Brave?
I saw a post on Facebook from someone who mentioned This Is My Brave. When I clicked on the This Is My Brave page I was intrigued because I noticed that they were located and founded in my area but also because I am someone who has been diagnosed as having depression, anxiety and PTSD. I started reading and watching the videos and thought I may not be ready to share my story (YET) but I wonder if there’s a way I can help. I contacted Jenn right away and after a few tries we were able to connect and it was “connection at first sight”. Thanks Universe!!
What’s your connection to mental illness?
Besides my own mental illness, I have several family members who live with it as well. Just like my parents gave me my eye color I also got the other good genes of “feeling everything.” I also consider myself a lover of music and art and was fascinated that This Is My Brave had a community that celebrated the story and art of those who have been gifted with mental illness.
I also just really loved that they were sharing the message that its more than ok to have a mental illness and to teach tolerance and also educate others. We live in a very disconnected world and This Is My Brave connects us to others and helps us share our bravery when the world can be a little overwhelming.
How have you overcome your struggles?
I had my first panic attack at age 14. From that point on I began my journey through, meds, cognitive therapy and everything I could put my hands on to “heal me”. If I thought it would stop the panic attacks and get rid of them then I tried it. At almost 40 now I have learned to not only accept that I have a mental illness but I see it as a gift. From sharing my story with so many others I have found that the most talented, loving and accepting people are those with a mental illness. I am proud to be part of such a wonderful community.
What would you tell someone who might be going through something similar?
For anyone who thinks I’m spitting out “unicorns and rainbows” just know it’s taken me a long time to get here but once I learned to accept it life got much easier. Practice self-care, journal, meditate and be your own biggest cheerleader, researcher and advocate. I often remind myself of the quote that says:
“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our own story is the BRAVEST thing we will ever do." – Brené Brown
Why is ending the stigma important to you?
No one choses to have a mental illness. We are all born exactly how we should be but for some reason a stigma has been attached to mental illness. I think because mental illness is not always visible, people lack the understanding and compassion for it. I think it’s my job to not only educate but also celebrate those with mental illness and loved ones because I am living proof that one can not only exist with a mental illness but also LIVE a great life with it.
Lastly, I couldn’t be happier and to be part of This Is My Brave. In a world that often leaves us feeling “empty”, being part of something as great as This Is My Brave “fills” me up.
Our DC-area auditions wrap up this weekend in Leesburg, VA tomorrow, and Silver Spring, MD on Sunday! We can't wait to hear your brave stories.