Announcing Our First Expansion City for 2015: BOSTON!

 

Announcing-2015-Boston

Back when Anne Marie and I launched This Is My Brave, we were so overwhelmed with the possibilities of our new venture we had to continually remind each other that our goal was to put on the best possible show we could, first and foremost, and to let the rest fall into place.

Things are falling into place.

The debut performance was a tremendous success. We acquired our 501(c)3 non-profit status. We’re in talks with our local high school to host an encore performance with follow-up Q & A guided by Dr. Mark Komrad, our advisory board Psychiatrist and several counselors and therapists in October. And we’re getting ready to start planning for our second show in DC during May 2015, Mental Health Awareness month.

Our mission of encouraging people to talk openly about mental illness, sharing their personal stories in order to end the stigma surrounding brain diseases through music, poetry and essays, came to fruition and continues to thrive. Both here on the blog, and in personal connections we’ve made through talking with individuals who share our passion for mental health advocacy work.

We are thrilled to announce that in May of 2015, This Is My Brave will be coming to Boston, Massachusetts! Through social media we were able to connect with Logan Fisher, a brave mom and writer who has the ability to describe the pain of mental illness from both the patient side and caregiver side. Logan is joined by Amy Quinn and together they have formed our production team for Boston.

Logan Beth Fisher and Amy Fisher Quinn are creative partners who recently finished their first picture book manuscript–Cinderella Wore Glasses.  It breaks the mold of a popular princess making her more accessible to all girls.  They are passionate about mental health issues and often write about and champion causes that help break down the stigmas that coincide with mental health issues.  Amy and Logan are honored and ecstatic to be co-producing/directing Boston’s first This Is My Brave Show.  You can find Logan’s writing at: www.muddledmother.org, on Facebook, and @muddledmother on Twitter.

We’re currently in talks with several other brave mental health champions in cities across the US to hopefully allow This Is My Brave to touch more lives in 2015.

If you are interested in producing a This Is My Brave show in your city, please email us at apply@thisismybrave.com to learn more about our application process.

Robin Williams’ Suicide: What only those that are depressed know.

14708892989_2668a70147Photo Credit: s.tassinari via Compfight cc

Robin Williams is dead.  The funny man, everyone’s uncle, thespian extraordinaire…killed himself perhaps as a result of an all too prevalent disease; depression.  As expected, the world came out wearing black, mourning, lauding, crying for this brilliant brilliant light of man.  I, like most people, read tweets, posts, watched CNN, unhealthily wading through text and mass media alike to try and make some sense of something so senseless. As I read, one line kept showing up…over and over in one form or another; “If you are in pain, please seek help.”  “If you are thinking about killing yourself, find someone to talk to.” “Here is the suicide hotline’s number.”  I have to tell you that the cavernous pit in my stomach grew a bit larger because although these words were written or spoken with good intentions, they show how deeply depression is misunderstood. 

As a fellow clinically depressed human, let me assure you…{to read the rest of this eye-opening post, please visit Logan Fisher’s blog: A Muddled Mother.}

Follow Logan’s writing via her author Facebook page and also on Twitter.

The Face of Depression & Anxiety

Maria Jose Ovalle lives up to her blog’s name: Very Busy Mama. A wife and mother of two small children living in Alexandria, Virginia, Maria Jose is an Independent Media Strategist blogging about fashion, style, and kid’s stuff. She’s also the Social Media Manager for VisitAlexandria.com, and is an Ambassador for PBS Kids, in addition to juggling her other various writing obligations. She’s incredible at what she does. One might never suspect that Maria Jose has experienced depression and anxiety.

This past May she suffered a panic attack while on a business trip 2,500 miles away from home. She courageously vlogged about it when she got home, posting the video the day before our show took the stage, and graciously agreed to share her video with the This Is My Brave community because she believes in our mission of encouraging people to talk openly about mental illness.

Thank you, Maria Jose, for your raw, honest, brave look at anxiety and depression. We’re behind you 110% in your fight to get well and are so proud of the progress you’ve made so far. Thank you for being an amazing advocate for those struggling with mental illness.

“We deserve better. Talk about it please. Just talk. Tell someone and get the help.”  - Maria Jose Ovalle

Hear Me Roar, Damara Hoskins

***TRIGGER WARNING. This post contains potentially traumatic subject matter. Please use discretion.***

Free, I am happy

Peace is my best friend

Often I’m super giggly

I’ll stay this way to the end

 

Joyful, full of glee

Living in serenity

There’s only a bit of

Darkness present

Still keeping on

I’m happy, just shy

Really, I’m okay

Maybe though, I’m off

Slightly slipping

 

The light is still there

But something has changed, I’m off

I don’t feel like me

 

It’s like I’m broken

Torn and deflating

The pain is almost numbing

Where has that peace gone?

 

Am I monster, ugly, maybe worthless?

I can’t know; I never have.

I’m told the opposite,

But what is the truth?

Am I really somebody?

Or is it just life, playing

Another cruel joke on me

 

Ah, it’s back again

That blissful light that saves me

Keeps me existing

 

Maybe, just maybe it will stay

I’ll remain happy, stable

That nothing will fade,

Leaving me alone in

Utter darkness

 

Of course it wouldn’t

Alone I am again

Battling with my soul

Living, but dying slowly

Collapsing from the inside out

I’m fading, slipping away

I cannot be helped

 

Where did I go wrong?

How did I end up this way?

Lifeless, struggling

 

I wish for simple things

A hug, for those times I need it

And nothing else

Hope, for when everything

Comes crashing down

Around me

Love when I feel nothing

But pain

Peace, when my world is

Ruled by chaos

Most importantly though

I wish for the words

“I’m here for you”

When I’m lost and alone

 

Life sucks, like really

It’s just that simple, I swear

I only fall, hard

 

But what did I do?

I’ve done nothing but

Suffer

Yet still it

Keeps coming, tearing

Me down

Ripping me apart

Destroying me

 

Please just let me be

Let all this chaos be done

I want to be dead

 

The dark is my friend

I welcome its embrace

I don’t stop it from

Laying cold, numbing

Yet burning kisses along

My arms, my thighs

 

I lay down, alone

Allowing it to

Swallow me, cocoon me

In a sheath of blackness

 

Slowly it stops

My thoughts, my feelings

They cease, it has happened

Finally I have succumbed and

It Is Beautiful

 

Blood drops are red

Lifeless lips are blue

You’re not alone

If you wish this were you

 

Pain is all around

But in the midst of it all

I find myself freed

 

STOP!

Inhale, exhale

What have I been doing?

Inhale, exhale

My life has meaning

I’m worth it, all of it

Inhale…big exhale

I deserve the happiness

The peace, joy; all of it

It’s mine to take, embrace

Reside in

 

That moment happened

When I looked in the mirror, and

Saw something beautiful, perfect

That I saw myself as irreplaceable

Unique, rare

Where nothing, nothing can stop my smile

My smile that is genuine

 

In that moment, I remembered I was worth it

That I still am worth it

People care about me and for me

They need me, almost more than

I need them

 

I’m wanted, desired

Necessary for

The balance of others,

For family and friends

I have a place in this world

A place that I will not give up

 

I am alive, I am strong

I have overcome

I am NOT a victim

 

Hear Me Roar, loudly

Feel my inner strength beating

Nothing can stop me

~~~~~~~~~~

this is my brave pictureDamara is 18 years old and never thought she’d be here today. Yet here she stands, alive and free. A stronger person because of her past.

We All Need This Book: You Need Help!

You Need Help!: A Step-by-Step Plan to Convince a Loved One to Get CounselingYou Need Help!: A Step-by-Step Plan to Convince a Loved One to Get Counseling by Mark S. Komrad

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book holds the keys to saving the life of a person in the midst of a mental health crisis. I wish it had been around for my husband and parents in 2005 when they were faced with helping me navigate my way through two manic episodes followed by an entire year of debilitating depression. Even after receiving a formal diagnosis and some success with psychiatric treatment, a few years later I suffered two relapses and again this book would have been invaluable to my support system as I made my way back to recovery.

My family members and several close friends were an instrumental component to my treatment and recovery path. I can only imagine how much faster I’d have been able to overcome my severe depression and suicidal thoughts if they would have been armed with Dr. Komrad’s book, specifically Chapter 10 on How to Continue Your Support, which describes how the concerned party can assist in the treatment of their loved one through contact with the doctor.

I am so glad Dr. Komrad wrote this life-saving book. Since creating my theater show and non-profit, numerous individuals have approached me to ask if I had any advice on how they can help a loved one recover from mental illness. Now I have an excellent resource to recommend. You Need Help! is the ideal starting point when seeking guidance on how to get a mental health evaluation for a friend or family member who is struggling, where to go to find effective treatment, and how to be a critical part of that person’s long-term recovery from mental illness.

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You can order You Need Help! A Step-by-Step Plan to Convince a Loved One to Get Counseling on Amazon. Read further reviews of Dr. Komrad’s book on his website.

Letter to a Friend, Jennie Gibbs

7176240410_26e26557dePhoto Credit: silvia sani via Compfight cc

Dear Friend,

I know you want to give up. I know you look around, and all you see is pain, or shame, or self-hatred…just stop. Let it go. You are SO beautiful, and you have an amazing life ahead of you. You have so much to give, and you have so much love to receive.

I am so sorry that you have had to suffer so horribly. I’m sorry for the stinging words, the barbed insults, the ignorant judgments, the acts of violence, everything. It is not okay that you went through all of that. Even if the people who hurt you never apologize, I am here to say, on their behalf, and on behalf of humanity, I am so sorry. If I could meet you right now, I would give you the most gigantic hug, and hug you until all the pain was gone. You are never alone. You are a part of humanity. If people knew what was going on in your mind, I guarantee you would have TONS of people begging you not to go. You are human, you are important, and you are loved.

I understand exactly how you feel, because I have tried to commit suicide. I felt alone. Angry. Miserable. Like nobody loved or wanted me. I felt like there was this beautiful world all around me, full of happy, laughing people who belonged somewhere. And I felt like I was completely shut off from this world, not allowed to bask in the love and joy like other people.

I felt like this horrible, unlovable thing. I felt like I had to end it, and like there was only one way to end it. Thankfully, my friends were alerted to what was going on, and I was saved because of them. I had so many people who were concerned and reached out to me. I had no idea that people cared so much about me, or maybe I just couldn’t understand it at the time. I tried to take myself out of this world, and I had people reach out and keep me alive.

It took a long time to fix me and pull me out of that dark, horrible place I had sunk into, a lot of professional help, and a lot of work on my behalf. But a year and a half later, I am so glad that my attempt was unsuccessful.

I moved from my home in Massachusetts when I was twelve, and I felt like I had lost everything- my home, my friends, my identity. I got bullied horribly on and off from ages 12-18. I was made fun of for everything, even the way I walked and talked. I had people go on Facebook and write statuses about how I was an ogre, and my classmates commented about how funny that was. My self-esteem took a nose dive.

I had a lot of family problems going on, including my father getting cancer and my mother having a stroke, all while I was in high school. My friends all got boyfriends and were moving forward with their lives, and I felt like I was just on my own, with the horrible sinking feeling in my heart as my only company. By the time I got to college, I had no energy, and I was on the verge on going into a horrible clinical depression. I got to the point where it was too hard to get up and move from my bed. I almost dropped out of college. I was crying constantly. I started cutting my wrists. I was upset, and miserable, and ashamed, and embarrassed. I felt completely vulnerable and like nobody cared. A lot of people didn’t understand.

However, a lot of people did actually care, and a lot of people helped me through it. I have gotten out of my depression, and I have graduated college. I’m going to grad school in the fall. I have a lot of friends and family that love me, and I have so much potential and hope for the future. I felt like there was no hope for me when I was in the middle of it all, but I got through it, and the storms have calmed. I’m in a much better place, and I am much stronger for all I have gone through. I’m sharing all of this because I really want you to know that you can get through it too.

The message I want you to take in is this: You can heal. You are more powerful than you could ever imagine. You can persevere, and be this amazing person that you already are deep inside of you. You are stronger than all your demons, no matter what they tell you, no matter what awful words and self-judgments are within your head.

I know you don’t feel strong right now, but you have, deep inside you, a little voice that is saying, “No, I will not do this. I will hang on.” You just have to listen for it, believe in it, and believe in yourself. I know you may have gotten to a point where you feel like you can’t feel anymore. But deep within you, you want to live. You DESERVE to live. I believe in you, and know you can get through this. I know I don’t know you in person, but believe me when I say I would do ANYTHING to stop you from ending it all.

One day, things in your life are going to be beautiful. You are going to laugh so hard that tears run down your face. You are going to hear kind words, or have a friend throw their arm around you lovingly. You are going to have the most amazing kiss. You are going to learn so much. Sometimes it is going to be hard and painful again. But you will get through it, just like you are going to get through this. You are going to cherish life and be able to see the beauty in things. You just have to hang on until you get there.

If you ever need a friend, please send me a message on Facebook. If you know someone who needs a friend, have them send me a message. I will understand, and I will not judge. Find me on Facebook and pour your heart out to me, I promise I will read it and write back to you. Just remember that you are never alone. You are loved, and you have so many wonderful things to experience. Just please hang on. Please hang on.

Love,

Jennie Gibbs

IMAG0232Jennie was diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of 20 and is now eager to use her experience to help others. She works as a nanny in Parkton, MD, and lives outside Washington, DC in Westminster, MD. She loves painting, writing, and playing her violin in her free time. She is very excited that she will be attending graduate school at the University of Maryland School of Social Work this upcoming fall.

Your Brave Notes

Ever since the debut of This Is My Brave the show, folks have been asking us, “Will you put on another show?” and “What else will you do in the future?”

The answers to those questions are most definitely YES and we’re working on it. Big time. We can’t make any official announcements at this moment, but let’s just say we’re super excited about what lies ahead for This Is My Brave.

In the meantime, we wanted to share with you something that came out of our initial performance, which, unless you attended the live show, you haven’t seen until now. In the lobby of the theater, we had two large cork bulletin boards on easels. We had printed up what we called “Brave Notes” on yellow paper to resemble Post-It notes, and an array of Sharpies was available for our guests to share with us what they felt brave about.

The result was beautiful and heartfelt and exactly what we had hoped for.

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These Brave Notes represent the greatest fears, the most significant triumphs, and the deepest, most sincere ambitions shared by those of us who live with mental illness. We want others to understand where we’ve been, how hard we fought {and continue to fight} to make it through this thing called life, and how desperately we want to change the way the world views mental illness.

We can’t do it alone. This Is My Brave was founded on the concept of sharing personal stories. People who believed in us shared their stories here before we found our inaugural cast. Supporters jumped into our #BraveChat conversations on Twitter because they wanted to be heard. You can join us. You don’t have to get up on stage in front of a live audience to share your story. Our blog is a virtual stage where you are encouraged to add your voice and show the world the power of your brave.

If This Is My Brave has encouraged you to be more open about your journey with mental illness, we’d love to hear from you. Send us your essays, your poems, your songs. Tell us about your recovery journey in your own creative way. Not a complete start-to-finish book, but a peek into your life with mental illness and how it’s affected you. Share with us how you found hope. How you found your brave so that others can find theirs.

We’ll be posting new messages from our tribe each week. Feel free to submit videos if you’d like {a YouTube link is the preferred format} or written pieces under 800 words. We’d love for you to include a photo with your submission, if you’d like. Send your piece to: submissions@thisismybrave.com.

Your-Brave-Notes

Raise your voice with us. Be brave. Share your story to inspire change.

Enter to Win a “be brave” Bravelets™ bracelet!

We’ll always have a place in our hearts for our original, Limited Edition BRAVE bracelets. They were handmade by Anne Marie and I, and we were proud of the fact that our hands touched each and every bracelet that went out to our supporters who put their faith in us and our movement.

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With the debut show behind us, Anne Marie and I are now focusing our efforts on the future. We realize that our time now should be spent more strategically; developing future programs for our community, expanding the show for next year, and applying for grants. Therefore, a few weeks ago we partnered with Bravelets™ to add their “be brave” jewelry to our BRAVE Gear collection! With this partnership, $10 from each item purchased on our Brave Page will be donated back to support This Is My Brave in our mission to continue raising awareness for mental health.

We’re super excited about them, and now for our public launch, we thought it would be fun to do a giveaway. There are several ways to enter, so check them out below, tell your friends, and GOOD LUCK! {Winner will be announced a week from tomorrow, July 3rd, so enter today!}

Check out our Bravelets™ BRAVE Page to see all the styles and colors available!

ThisisMyBrave

 

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This Is My Brave has launched on YouTube!

Corporate Photography, Political Photography, PR Photography

We are ecstatic to announce that the debut performance of This Is My Brave is now available on YouTube! We hope you’ll watch, appreciate, and share our message of sharing personal stories of living with mental illness to end the stigma.

Please subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay informed of new show announcements and videos. Thank you so much for your support!

If our show’s message and mission inspired you, please click below to sign our PLEDGE and share your story in the comments! Let’s keep the conversation going.

TODAY!

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Gabbi performed her poem, Below the Surface

Corporate Photography, Political Photography, PR Photography

“This Is My Brave helped me find strength and courage I didn’t know I had. Every time I read my piece as I practiced and then finally when I performed it, it freed me more and more. After my final performance I felt like a new person and that I could conquer anything in the world. I am forever grateful that I had this opportunity because it changed my life and helped me see that I had the power to overcome my mental illness and face my past and that no one can ever tell me differently.” – Gabbi Sulzer

Please remember to Sign the PLEDGE! And help us spread the word by sharing with your friends and family via Facebook and Twitter!