The Definition of Brave

definition-of-brave

We think that by bearing our truths and sharing our stories, we’ll be faced with disapproval, ignorance, judgement, indifference even. We fear a painful backlash if we are to open up about the ways our brains are unique.

Some people would say the definition of brave is fourteen individuals standing up on stage in front of a sold-out audience of almost 400 to talk about what life feels like when one has been dealt the mental illness card. It’s knowing the entire performance is being videotaped so that it will be shareable to the world later. There is the potential it will reach thousands of people. Maybe millions.

It’s pacing backstage, outside a tiny dressing room, as we hear our anthem belted out with such beauty and soul that it’s impossible not to lip sync to calm our nerves.

It’s voices shaking, mouths dry as toast, weight shifting as we sit in a chair waiting for our turn to be introduced. It’s a deep breath sucked in and sighed out nervously before beginning to speak. It’s making eye contact with the audience members we can see outside of the tight spotlight shining directly on the space within our arms’ reach.

The definition of brave is not letting the cry pierce the surface when reminiscing about all the pain and suffering we endured, even though verbalizing the memories is like rubbing salt into a wound with tiny cracks in the scab that has yet to crust over completely. Brave is letting the feelings and emotions catch in bated breath for a second. Or a few seconds. Then continuing to finish the story. No one said it was going to be easy.

Brave is not giving up on sharing our story even though it hurts like hell.

What we’ve been through has taught us intense empathy, and for that we wouldn’t trade our conditions for that of a healthy, non-mentally-ill person. We are the lucky ones. Our determination to get well and stay well earns us the title of fighter on the outside. On the inside, it’s more like embracer.

We tell our stories as a reminder of how far we’ve come and how we work hard to stick to our treatment plans each day in order not to fall backwards. The days and weeks and months and years may put distance between our horrible sadness, our frantic madness, the chaos and confusion in our minds. Those are the moments we only keep in our memory for the reminders of what it felt like so we never let ourselves return there.

We are brave not because it’s a walk in the park to relive those moments, but because we know that by sharing our stories there’s a chance that one day, someone who is looking for a sign that things will get better, might find our stories. They will listen to us speak our raw truths and though our voices may shake, and tears may fall, they’ll see us rise above. We’ve been able to overcome mental illness. We chose life and we choose to be brave and continue to share our stories in hopes that we’ll inspire others to share theirs, too.

We share our pain because it only takes one person saying, ‘Thank you,’ to make us realize why. Why we chose to be brave in the first place. Why we chose to bare our souls and hold up our hearts for those before us to drink them in. Why we chose to walk off that stage with no regrets.

We are brave to demonstrate to others the power of sharing their stories. How powerful and healing it could be for more people to share their personal journeys of living with mental illness. The definition of brave shouldn’t have to describe talking openly about mental health disorders. It’s more accurately courage: the ability to do something that frightens one.

Because although we may be scared, and we may feel as though we will face danger or endure pain from sharing our stories, the reality was that when This Is My Brave took to the stage, the theater was filled with nothing but love, encouragement, understanding, acceptance and appreciation for what we did. Which is exactly why I’m excited to continue this journey.

Someday, in the very near future I hope, we will live in a world where we won’t have to call it brave to talk openly about living with mental illness. We’ll simply call it talking.

Corporate Photography, Political Photography, PR Photography

Comments

  1. congratulations on your big night, I followed along on the media that are social, cheering you on.

    The thing I’ve learned about speaking about, writing, and talking about my bi-polar and mental health in general is, if you remove your fear, you make others less fearful.

    Keep it up

  2. Peggy Thompson says:

    Jennifer … Here come my tears once Again … Tears of sadness from my memories as a teen when I witnessed my Dad’s battle with debilitating depression that required Electric shock treatment, a form of “torture” he said he would not wish on his worse enemy; tears of fear, horror and devastation from the memories of my daughter’s two hospitalizations (escorted by police) because she had moved from mania to psychosis (totally out of her mind); tears of hope, gratitude, thanksgiving, gladness and joy recalling the 14 Brave participants who were willing to become vulnerable by sharing their stories so others may come to know that Mental Illnesses are treatable (if not curable) as was/is the case of my loved ones and that those that suffer the torment, anxiety and humiliation that often accompany these disorders may experience a life free of such with the proper combination of treatment (meds, counseling, support groups) and understanding, love and commitment from loved ones, friends and people in general who take the time and make the effort to learn about mental illnesses/brain disorders. The two words you used that really stand out to me are “courage” and “empathy.” Overcoming our fears and pride (courage) to share with others our struggles, challenges and secrets (vulnerability) and, most importantly, the positive experiences (hope and joy) we have also had is what encourages them to know they are not alone and, in turn, gives them permission and encouragement to do likewise and to seek help.

    Jennifer … Your are especially gifted in expressing yourself in writing. This blog, in particular, is so eloquent, poignant and deep from your heart. There is a saying: “Be who you are AND be that well!” Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing just that by answering, what I believe, is God’s call to make your vision “this is My Brave!” a reality!!! I am exceedingly thankful to have had
    the opportunity to attend the Premiere Performance of what I envision will become a worldwide phenomena reaching all parts of the world with presentations in every language imaginable.

    I remain one of your dedicated and faithful fans. May God watch over you and your family and continue to abundantly bless you with good health. May you always encounter success in all that you do especially in promoting removing the stigma attached to those who suffer with Mental Illnesses.

  3. bravo! Congratulations on this amazing event and all of the outreach you have done and will continue to do around it. From those of us living with mental illness – I say thank you. we need nothing but more of this type of bravery! Keep on sharing your story wide. you are changing lives…

  4. Deborah says:

    Hi Jennifer~~Would love to have been there to be one of loving, supportive audience members! Wondering how soon and where I/we will be able to see a recording of the performance. I am 64 year old mom of 2 adult sons, diagnosed when I was 40 and they were 3 and 6. You are inspiring me to become an active advocate for our extended community. Thanks for all the great work you are doing! Deborah

  5. Steve iselin says:

    It was a privilege to attend this inaugural event. Brave people indeed, who are making a difference- one voice at a time. Thanks!

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