Tune in each Tuesday in May for #TellUsAboutIt Tuesday where we will check back in with a few individuals who participated in last year’s Let’s Face It campaign and learn about their experience as well as what they’ve been up to since participating in the campaign.

This Tuesday, we’re checking in with Amanda B., you can read Amanda’s story from last year’s campaign here: https://www.mhconn.org/blog/may20/

As someone with lived experience with severe mental illness working in the public policy and advocacy realms, Amanda had been comfortable sharing her story as a tool for credibility in testimony and public speaking capacities for some time. When asked about her experience sharing her story as a part of the Let’s Face It campaign, she said the response was better than she could have imagined, “I was nervous about it would come out and how it would be received. But I read so many supportive comments from people that I had gone to high school with, for example, people I haven’t talked to in years, and people I don’t even know,” Amanda said, “It really encouraged me to be more open with my story with individuals, rather than just being comfortable with the distance you can give it as an academic exercise or as an advocacy tool.”

Amanda explained how this experience helped her realize she doesn’t need to hide these parts of herself in casual conversation, “I would feel dishonest leaving things out sometimes, this experience gave me the confidence to be like, ‘why don’t I just say it and move on?’”

Since we last spoke to Amanda over a year ago, her entire life has been turned upside down in the best possible way.

Amanda says she’s gotten to a point now where she is using both her lived experience and her academic knowledge every single day, “the position I’m in now almost seems surreal. It’s a place where I have this useful insight, and I can do something meaningful with this horrific personal experience I had. I’m not going to stop people from having severe mental illness, but maybe we can help spread accurate information,” she says.

She went to D.C as an undergrad but eventually moved back in with her parents, which she never intended to do, “There was a lot of frustration, anger, sadness and grief about those years I was missing out on, and the previous years of severe depression, and the years of sort of getting back up on my feet after I entered remission for severe major depression,“ Amanda says, “There’s a period where you’re feeling so much better. But it’s like, okay, now I have to grapple with how there was this incredible interruption to my life.”

Amanda graduated with her Master of Social Work in Public Policy Practice after participating in the Let’s Face It campaign; she also got her clinical license.

She got a job in the civil service and moved back to D.C. Now, Amanda says she absolutely loves her job and, “serving others has provided a sense of purpose that I don’t think I’ve ever had, or at least not as clearly or vividly.”

Amanda says she recognizes the work she has put in to reach her goals, but she still feels lucky and grateful every day for where she’s now, “I think I have that appreciation because the difference [in health is] so stark, but also because when I was in the inpatient psychiatric wards, I had this reality check that if people aren’t responsive to treatment, if they don’t have a community, if they don’t get the help they need, there is a possibility that their life ends in a terrible way when there were few experiences that were happy or good in between birth and death, or very few they could even recognize as good with their long-standing mental illness,” she says.

That realization was terrifying to her, “But at the same time,” she says, “I’ve kind of gotten to the point where instead of dwelling on how terrible that reality is, I recognize the luck I have to get a second chance at life as well as realize that I have an opportunity to make a tiny impact so that fewer have to live a life of pain like that, even just one less person would be a success.”

“I found a way over time to turn it into a personal call to action and a professional academic passion,” Amanda says, “into a mission and a sense of gratitude, and less-so letting it affect my worldview in a way that is entirely negative and pessimistic.”

Gifts from the Let’s Face It campaign help to support the launch of The Art of Wellbeing, an arts and wellness program at the Hispanic Health Council’s (HHC) Family Wellness and Cultural Heritage Center in downtown Hartford. A donation to the #LetsFaceIt campaign is an investment in the safe and welcoming environments for those we serve and it’s an investment in our future.

Join us by setting up a fundraising page or making a donation today!

Stay in touch with us on social media @mentalhealthct and keep up with our blog posts so you don’t miss a #TellUsAboutItTuesday in May!