Brave Because I Want To See Society Change

I learned of yesterday’s shooting here in Washington, DC, via the news pouring into my Twitter feed about the woman who had crashed her car into the gate surrounding the White House. There was speculation that a child was in the car with her at the time. There was also speculation that she suffered from mental illness.

Then she was shot by police and died soon after. The baby, thankfully, was unharmed in the ordeal and is now in the custody of child protective services.

I am so utterly heartbroken for this woman, her child, her family and friends and our society.

This needs to stop.

But unfortunately, until our country stops blaming people with mental illness for their conditions and starts providing the mental health services they need to get well, incidents like what happened yesterday will continue to occur.

We need to come together as a society to talk openly about mental health issues. If you notice someone exhibiting the signs and symptoms of a mental illness, do what you can to help them get the treatment they need. I guarantee you they are too sick to realize they need help.

We need to stop hiding our mental illnesses, because by hiding we are adding to the stigma.

Earlier this year I made the choice to go public with the fact that I live with Type 1 Bipolar Disorder. That I’ve been hospitalized a total of four times for mania, once was postpartum psychosis after the birth of my first child in 2008. That I once was afraid and ashamed to speak openly about my illness.

Today, I am neither afraid nor ashamed of my illness. I am proud to talk openly about my experiences because my openness helps others. They’ve told me so.

When we come together to share our stories, we propel a movement forward. A movement to shift the way people view the mentally ill. A movement to bring desperately needed changes to the state of mental health services in our country. A movement to stop the loss of innocent lives – both the mentally ill themselves and the people they harm when they are sick.

You see, yesterday’s news could have been me. I suffer from mental illness. But unlike Miriam Carey, I received proper treatment.

And with proper diagnosis and continuous treatment, people with mental illness can lead perfectly productive lives. They can be {and ARE} valuable members of society when they have the support and services they need to get well and stay well.

I don’t like to think about what could have happened if my husband hadn’t reached out for help. But the reality is that whenever a story like this hits the news and the person involved is thought to have “a history of mental illness,” I am brought right back to the torment and the excruciating emotional pain of what we went through as a family the times I was sick.

We need to change the public’s misconceptions about mental illness because when people get treatment, lives can be saved.

I recently wrote a manifesto on my experience living with bipolar disorder. It’s called Find Your Brave and I hope you’ll take a moment to download it here and share. It’s part of my effort to encourage people to stop hiding and seek support because we’re so much stronger when we come together.

Let’s come together and show the world This Is My Brave.



  1. You know you’re bipolar when you see a story like this and you weep and pray and empathize with the alleged perpetrator more than anyone else.

    She was likely at the lowest point and she almost took her child with her. Unfortunately, there are less of us to ask question and sympathize.

    Your post crystallized my thoughts precisely.

    • bipolarmomlife says:

      Thank you, Lance. Thank God the baby was spared. She should have been spared, too. I’m praying for her and her family.

  2. Love this post! You are so brave, Jenn and in being brave you will change things for others who struggle. They might initially be little ripples in the water but they will grow as those of us who also deal with mental illness add our voices. I’m so proud of you!

    • bipolarmomlife says:

      Thank you so much, Bobbi! Your support means the world to me and keeps me going. I’m ready for our voices to come together as a tidal wave. Xoxoxo

  3. taryterre says:

    The stigma of mental illness is hard to shed. If people weren’t so afraid to be labeled the world would be a better place.

  4. I’m so glad your name popped up on my Instagram feed this morning, and led me to your blog. You are a wonderful writer. Thank you for your courage and clarity.

    • bipolarmomlife says:

      Priscilla – I was thinking the same about you! Thank you so much for reading my words! Your story sounds fascinating and I am adding Learning to Breathe to my “to read” list on goodreads. I’m excited to read about your journey. Please keep in touch! PS. Just read your HuffPo piece ‘Why 60 is the new 60’ ~ brilliant!

      • Thank you Jenn! Let’s definitely stay in touch. Do you know Therese Borchard and Beyond Blue? We met online years ago and she continues to inspire me.

        • bipolarmomlife says:

          I follow her writing on Psych Central, but haven’t read her books yet. Definitely agree with you – she’s very inspiring.

  5. You are brave and I stand with you. As a mom with BP 2, everyday can be a challenge. Bless and thank you.

  6. Jenn, I often feel like my mental health issues’ lack of severity make me an impostor or a fake. To know that you live with this breaks my heart, but I know from the treatment I receive that modern science can do amazing things. I thank you for speaking out for those who are afraid to speak; those that think maybe somethings wrong; and those that have no idea at all.

    Hopefully in less than a generation we can make great strides with mental illness the same way HIV was just something homosexual men got in the 80s and early 90s and now people know it’s a blood-bourne disease like so many others.

    Reach out if you need support.


    • bipolarmomlife says:

      Hey Mike – thanks for your this. You know, I asked my psychiatrist last time I met with her if she thought I had a “mild” case of bipolar disorder since I am so stable {and have been for the past three and a half years} but she said no. I have a moderate to severe case because of the sheer number of times I’ve been hospitalized for mania.

      I agree with you. I hope that by banding together and speaking out – no matter how mild or severe our illnesses are – we will make amazing strides with the way society views people who live with mental illness.

      I owe you an email – promise I haven’t forgotten about that. ;)

  7. Loved this post Jenn. I am always so disheartened and saddened when these types of tragedies occur. Thanks for your call to action on this. We need more voices like yours!!

    • bipolarmomlife says:

      Me too, Sarah. My heart hurts whenever stories like these hit the news because I’m willing to bet if she had received the right help and had been following her treatment plan with the support of her family and friends, this wouldn’t have happened. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

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  1. […] I do for work, I tend to mention that I live with mental illness since my story led me to create This Is My Brave and they’re both so tied together. I take it upon myself to educate them because the more […]

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