It has been a little over a week since I told the story of my first suicide attempt at the Greenville show of ‘This Is My Brave‘. It has taken me all this time to figure out how to put my thoughts into words-the fear of backlash that had me holding my breath for days, the numerous stories shared with me as a result of the show, and the overwhelming support and love I have since received.
In the audience at the show were several of my most favorite human beings- my mother, my father, my boyfriend, my boss’s boss, and 2 of the amazing faculty I work with. While we rehearsed earlier in the day, I couldn’t stop shaking and was so anxious that I actually thought about bolting from the room. I couldn’t stop thinking about how risky this was- what if my story changes the way that people think about me? What if my parents are angry at me? What if my coworkers see me as incompetent? What if, like so many times before, the audience sees my story as a ploy for attention?
As the time to take the stage drew closer, I sat in the lobby of the venue, practicing my breathing exercises and repeating the silly manta I use to calm myself- you are the sun, you are the moon, you are the stars. I was surrounded by an odd medley of people- a Jewish rabbi with bipolar disorder, a 17 year old beauty battling anorexia, an anxious mother of 2 in whom I saw my future self. As we stood to go to the stage together, an overwhelming sense of calm came over me- I was ready to share my story and I was going to do it with the support of these amazing individuals around me.
Doing ‘This Is My Brave’ was one of the most daunting things I had ever done. Yet, from that experience, I feel that I have developed a deeper sense of understanding of my own disorder- it isn’t something to be afraid or ashamed of. Instead, it is something to share with others, to use to help people suffering through the same diagnosis. There is so much power and strength in being able to talk about what haunts us- we are all battling demons… why not help each other overcome them?
Your story will save lives.
Since the show, I have been blown away by how many people have reached out to me to share their stories about their struggles with mental illness. ‘This Is My Brave’ opened the door for others to find their courage, to know that they are not alone, and to reach out for help through friendship. I have been touched by the love and support I have received. Individuals that I barely know all the way to friends that have been with me most my life have reached out to express how proud they are and want to know how they can help. My biggest fear going into the show was that my father would be upset by my story- a story that I kept hidden from him for nearly 7 years. Instead, ‘This Is My Brave’ allowed us to have our first direct conversation about my disorder, address some previous miscommunications, and grow closer as a family.
Finding the words to describe my experience has been challenging, but I think I may have it: ‘This Is My Brave’ isn’t about finding bravery. Each and every performer on that stage found their bravery the moment they decided to get better, in whatever form that may be for them. ‘This Is My Brave’ isn’t about sharing what makes us brave. For many of us, the stories we told are just a snapshot of what we are dealing with. Our battles will never end, yet we have the courage to continue to face them. ‘This Is My Brave’ is about challenging normalcy and helping others tackle whatever they may be going through by letting them know they are not alone.
Be brave. Always be brave.