Jennifer Marshall, who suffers from type 1 bipolar disorder, is the co-founder and executive director of This is My Brave, an organization which seeks to end the stigma surrounding mental illness through various types of live performances.
For several years, she wrote about her bipolar disorder under a pseudonym. She described how she’d been hospitalized four times, twice since her first child was born. She explained how she went off her medication during both of her pregnancies and how each time — once as the mother of a newborn and then again weeks into her second pregnancy — she was escorted from her home in police handcuffs, defiant.
She blogged to connect and reach other mothers grappling with mental illness. Ultimately, however, she decided that hiding her identity was actually perpetuating the shame long associated with mental disorders.
So even as her parents urged her not to, Jennifer Marshall in 2013 typed her real name on a blog post, hit publish and waited for the reaction.
With those keystrokes, Marshall, who lives in Ashburn, Va., joined a growing community of people with mental illness who have chosen to out themselves.
Marshall describes a surge of strength as she shared her story. “It’s human connection,” she said. “When you find someone who has been able to overcome something that you’re struggling with, it’s really powerful.”