This is My Brave!

It takes a lot of courage to talk about your mental illness because there’s so much judgment and stigma.  But when we come out of the shadows and put a face on mental illness, misperceptions dissolve and the barriers of stigma begin to crumble. I’m asking people, who are ready, to tell their stories here on my blog.  It’s so fitting that my first guest is Jennifer Marshall, who is doing more than telling her own story, she’s producing “This is My Brave” and inviting others to step into the spotlight with her.   Jennifer is one brave and determined woman!  Welcome Jennifer Marshall.

I started blogging anonymously about living with bipolar disorder in 2011JenniferMarshall when it was still considered fairly taboo to write (or talk) openly about mental illness. About the only mental illness you’d hear discussed was postpartum depression, and even then it was somewhat of a hush-hush topic

 Times are definitely changing although the stigma surrounding mental illness still lingers. I was nervous beyond belief earlier this year when I decided to reveal my true identity online after accepting my first paid writing job. I was being recognized for my writing – specifically – the experiences and feelings I was sharing regarding my life as a wife and mom with bipolar disorder parenting two small kids.

I braced myself for backlash, but instead received nothing but praise and positive feedback from friends, family and people I had never met but who had read my story on the cover of the AOL homepage that April morning. It was obvious I had made the right decision to open up about my story.

 Eight years ago this December, I experienced a manic break and was hospitalized. After returning to work for two weeks, I relapsed and again had to spend time in the psych ward. A few months later I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder – type 1. I spent the next year and a half in a deep depression, mad at the world for having to face life with a mental illness. With a great deal of hard work and unwavering support from my husband and close family and friends, I was able to pick myself up and make a new start. I learned how to live with what I was dealt. But I still only shared details of what I had been through with those in my inner circle. The stigma was too scary.

 In 2008, after a medication-free pregnancy with my first child, I experienced postpartum psychosis and had to be hospitalized for a week and missed out on an entire week of my newborn son’s life. After coming home and stabilizing with the meds my doctors prescribed, about a year and a half later I had my most recent manic episode and hospital stay when I was just 5 weeks pregnant with our daughter who is about to turn 3 years old next month. All four times I was unmedicated – twice because it was too early to tell what was going on and twice because I was protecting my babies.

 These days things are a lot more stable in terms of my mental health. I’ve committed to my treatment plan of medication, regular psychiatrist and therapist appointments, healthy eating, exercise and protecting my sleep. I’ve found an outlet in my writing and my passion for advocating for mental health awareness. It’s my dream to live in a world where those of us who live with a mental illness are no longer afraid to talk about our struggles.

BRAVEbraceletswebTo help people realize the power of sharing personal stories, I’ve created a show called This Is My Brave which will debut in the Washington, DC area during Mental Health Awareness month next year. May 18th, 2014 will be a day to remember. The stage will be filled with brave individuals who have chosen to be vulnerable and share their stories of hope and inspiration to help others. This Is My Brave will be a 90-minute theater production showcasing personal essays, original music performances and slam poetry by individuals living with {or affected by a close friend or family member living with} mental illness.

 My Associate Producer, Anne Marie Ames, and I just wrapped up our Kickstarter campaign through which our supporters came together and raised over $10,000 for This Is My Brave and our mission to silence stigma by shining a spotlight on mental illness. Our show is based on the simple belief that one person can make a difference. One voice speaking openly about mental illness begins to chip away at the stigma. Visit to find out how you can join the conversation.






This is My Brave! — 4 Comments

  1. My name is Dr.‭ ‬Fred Von Gunten, a retired Optometrist for over‭ ‬14 ‬years, who ‬specialized in developmental and behavioral vision for more than‭ ‬33‭ ‬years.‭ ‬I am happily married to a lovely lady,‭ ‬49 ‬years and counting.‭ ‬At‭ ‬71,‭ ‬I have knowledge and experience when it comes to dealing with Bipolar Disorder.‭ ‬My mission is to help others in achieving emotional stability without episodes.‭ ‬I’ve lived‭ over ‬55 ‬years with Bipolar I.‭ ‬For the first‭ ‬25‭ ‬years I dealt with over‭ ‬5‭ ‬episodes.‭ ‬Since then,‭ ‬I have transformed my life by changing my thoughts and committing to a consistent supply of Lithium. ‬I was one of the first to receive Lithium upon FDA approved it in‭ ‬1971.‭ ‬It has kept me stable for the last‭ ‬30 ‬years,‭ ‬along with knowing the‭ “‬Power of Positivity” with bipolar disorder‭.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

    Anyone who has struggled with mental health issues, and anyone who wonders how they can achieve positive thinking in their life, will no doubt benefit from this book. The author shares his lifelong struggle with bipolar disorder, and offers ways to manage the disorder with medication and with the Power of Positivity. In this book, Dr. Fred has opened up his heart and life for all to learn from. It is only when experience is passed on that it becomes a learning tool, and in this case, also a positive force for everyone’s life.

    Learning to develop the power of positivity, many challenges were encountered while dealing with bipolar disorder. This book explores these challenges and how ultimately episode-free stability was achieved. In the Power of Positivity, the author presents the numerous sources that were an inspiration to him and led him to a positive state of mind. After more than fifty years of struggling with bipolar disorder, he has written this book to help others achieve long-term stability .This book gives a comprehensive explanation of the scientific and clinical rationale of bipolar disorder, which will enable sufferers from bipolar disorder, their families and friends to see that it does not have to be a hindrance to a successful and happy life.

    Link to e-book

    Link to softcover book :

    Link to Breaking the Cycle – Bipolar Disorder – Dr. Fred Von Gunten Shares His Experiences and Successes : von-gunten/

    Link to My Facebook Page :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *