This past weekend I had the opportunity to share my experience with suicide with a packed house of 387 people. It wasn’t easy. My stomach churned. My mouth got dry. I sweated. It was harder on Saturday at rehearsal than for the show on Sunday, because on Sunday the crowd was empowering. Each person that got up to share his or her story at the podium received an encouraging applause, both before and after speaking.
I cried. Not during my reading, but when the voices of some of the cast reading cracked my eyes leaked. The producers were kind enough to give us all a pack of tissues as well as a bottle of water. It was intense. I had tears rolling off my jaw and I sniffled and I hoped I could pull it together by the time it was my turn.
I did pull it together and read and spoke with the confidence of someone who has nearly died and lived to tell about it. I talked about my appreciation of life and my hope for the future, about how anything is possible.
After the show I met my friend (my great friend who was kind enough to come with me on this journey to D.C. and even kinder to drive) in the lobby of the theater where I was met with kindness. Women gave me hugs. Men held me by the shoulders and thanked me. One man gave me the thumbs up while he ate a cookie. A nice stranger gave me flowers. It was a celebration of all we’d been through, all we’d overcome, of our courage to stand up and tell our story.
Like most things that are worth it, it wasn’t easy. The task was daunting. Afterwards, after I had been brave in front of a crowded theater, I felt amazing. I encourage you to share your own story. It needn’t be on such a grand scale, start with someone you trust. Tell them about your depression or your self-harm or your bipolar disorder or your schizophrenia or any other illness of the mind. Don’t tell them in hopes of being saved, because they can’t save you. Do it to get control of your life. Do it to find your brave.