Evan and Audrey Grubb perform at a This Is My Brave show in 2018
Audrey Grubb understands what it’s like to live with a mental illness. For years she struggled with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder before finding treatment that helped her on her road to recovery. This Is My Brave, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reduce the stigma around mental illness through live personal storytelling, was a vital source of support and encouragement. She now works as a producer for This Is My Brave’s college edition which launched in 2019.
“Storytelling Saves Lives” is the organization’s motto, reflecting the belief that communicating openly about mental illness can act as a lifeline for people who may feel as if they’re struggling alone.
This Is My Brave began in 2011 with a blog written by a young mom, Jennifer Marshall, who was struggling with bipolar disorder. Hesitant at first to share her story, she found support and connection with her blog’s readers, many of whom were also living with mental illness and eager to tell their own stories. Jennifer decided to transform This Is My Brave into a theater show where people could come on stage and tell their personal story to an audience. Since then, This Is My Brave has produced over 80 shows in cities across the US and internationally, featuring storytellers sharing their stories about living with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and more.
Audrey, who works as a therapist and earned her master's degree from Lesley in Clinical Mental Health Counseling: School and Community Counseling, discovered This Is My Brave while she was receiving treatment for her eating disorder. Realizing that other people shared her struggle was both comforting and inspiring.
In 2018, she went on stage at to talk about her experience and her journey toward healing. She and her younger brother Evan performed a song, “Falling,” that he had written for her during the years that she was living with anorexia.
“He’s very empathetic and would do anything for me," she says of Evan, who described how Audrey’s struggle affected their family.
After performing onstage she wanted to stay involved, so she volunteered to help as This Is My Brave launched a special pilot edition of the show aimed at college students living with mental illness. She became a co-producer for the 2020 spring shows and is the producer for the 2020/2021 school year.
“We worked with students from different colleges around the Boston area and produced seven shows,” she says. The response from students was overwhelmingly positive. “There were a lot of people who came up after the shows to talk with cast members about having similar experiences and thanked them for sharing."
Plans for live fall 2020 shows were derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic but Audrey is taking the challenges in stride, working on building a cast of college students for the 2021 spring semester and exploring other potential opportunities for the meantime. She is accepting virtual auditions on the This Is My Brave website.
“We have a big presence on social media—Facebook Live, Instagram, Twitter—and we’re working on a virtual show which has the potential to reach even more people,” she says, noting that many young people may be more comfortable sharing their stories online than onstage. But she looks forward to returning to live shows eventually.
“We still really value that connection between people that happens with a live audience,” says Audrey. “It really helps people understand that everyone experiences mental illness differently. We’re hoping it will open up conversations in a different way.