“You can’t test your courage timidly. You have to run through the fire, arms waving, legs pumping and heart beating wildly with the effort of reclaiming something vital, lost, laid aside or just plain forgotten. When you do that, you discover that we shine most brightly in community, the whole bedraggled, worn, grayed and tattered lot of us, bound together forever by a shared courage, a family forged in the heat of earnest struggle.”
– Embers, Richard Wagamese.
This past September I was invited by Joy Pavelich to participate in a weekend digital story workshop sponsored by CMHA and conducted by Mike Lang, cancer survivor and co-founder of Survive and Thrive. The goal by the end of the weekend was for each of us to produce a 3-minute audio-visual presentation describing our mental health journey.
The timing for this workshop couldn’t have been better. I was having trouble writing this – the final post for Home of the Brave. The time had come, as I knew it would, to write about my experience with mental illness. When I told Joy I was having trouble with my initial draft she smiled and said, “Don’t worry. This workshop is going to help you with your story.”
I had a conversation recently with a first year university student. She was starting to experience performance anxiety whenever she wrote an exam and now her anxiety had “spilled” over into the rest of her life. Exasperated she said, “Now the anxiety is constant. It never, ever stops!”
The majority of people who suffer from a mental illness begin to experience their symptoms in their early 20s. At such a young age the prospect of living the rest of their lives – always anxious, always depressed, always manic, never happy – is truly terrifying.
My hope is that Home of the Brave might offer comfort to those who are currently experiencing the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental illness. I would like these portraits to stand as a testament to the transformative healing power of finding a peer support network. I hope these stories might encourage those of you who are suffering in silence — right now — to reach out and talk to someone about how you are feeling.
It just might be one of the bravest things you will ever do for yourself.
Silver gelatin print
Hasselblad 80mm f2.8 lens
Ilford HP5, ISO 400
I would like to thank the participants of Home of the Brave. Meeting and working with each of you has been a honour and a privilege. The courage you have all shown by sharing your mental health journey has inspired me to share my own.
And for that I am grateful beyond words.