Depression isn’t fun to talk about. And it seems like a weird thing to write about for a fun showcase of arts and talent. But with statistics showing that nearly half of all Americans have suffered from depression at one point or another, it feels relevant to address.

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety to various degrees for the last seven years. There is no way to sugar coat it, it straight sucks. And when it started, I was startled to learn the huge stigma that surrounded it. To say it made most people uncomfortable when I was transparent about it is an understatement. Some would even become upset and in trying to work my way out of it, has cost me friendships. Such a horrible thing, as suffering in silence only pushes one deeper into the pit of depression.

So why am I writing about this here? Because I have found so much healing in the arts, and specifically within the community of The Foundry. At my lowest, I took a risk and auditioned for a play at a local community theatre here in Flagstaff. Without any acting experience, I was fortunate to land a role in that play as Cogsworth, the big, chubby clock from Beauty and the Beast. Talk about typecasting… 🙂

Having those rehearsals to go to literally saved my life during that time. My depression had me at a place where life held little meaning and I was grasping at vapors to connect me to any community. During that 5 month period, I found such peace in getting to leave my reality and play a character. I’m so grateful for the folks who took a chance and gave me that role. And it was through that connection that I was introduced to The Foundry.

In August of 2016, I found myself wandering into a warehouse behind a gas station and watching an event that would change my life. There was a lady on some silks. There was one doing hoop tricks. There was a comedian and a storyteller and a musician playing some original songs. It was weird and wonderful and inspiring. And then the house improv team took the stage and I was in love. I’d seen improv before and grew up watching Kids in the Hall and Mr. Show and some good sketch shows, but this was the first time I’d seen it live and I was enraptured.

The next day I went to an open practice for the improv team and I’ve been consumed with it ever since. (shameless plug :: Chomsky School of Business holds open improv practices each Sunday after the Foundry. You should come. You need no experience and you just might fall in love too!) I was later fortunate enough to be selected to a new team and I have found my people. My tribe. I’m so grateful I took the risk to try out for that play, to show up to that practice, and to try out for this team. Each step was terrifying and each brought me so much healing. Life is weird like that sometimes.

So, an adult talent show saved your life? Hyperbole much? No. It literally did. Real talk? I was suicidal. I didn’t want to live anymore. Each day felt like a grind that turned me to powder. And in those days, I would sit and search my mind for any reason not to make that horrible decision. And for months, The Foundry and Foundry community related events were the only handhold I could find. I would find myself thinking, “Let’s make it through the next two weeks and then The Foundry will come back around.” I knew that I would have a night where I could laugh and cry and feel alive by watching others perform the arts that made them feel alive. I could sit in a room with people who loved one another. That encouraged the performers. That found joy in the interesting talents displayed. And I felt alive in that energy.

I know I’m not the only one in our community that struggles with mental health issues. I’ve seen statistics that boggle the mind about depression and anxiety amongst university students. And I know many of you might be fighting the good fight right now. I believe that you will find, like I did, a supportive community in The Foundry. Yes, it’s a fun and silly adult talent show, but it is also so much more. I’ve made friends there that have shown me so much love and acceptance. It might have started as a grasped handhold to life, but it has become the source of so much joy and peace for me.

Maybe you find yourself feeling alone and struggling. Maybe you feel, as I did, that the people around you are not supportive or incapable of being so. I’d encourage you to come to a show. To meet some people. Come introduce yourself to me. And I believe you’ll find an eclectic, supportive and loving community of people. And I don’t mean to imply that any one thing holds all of the answers to your issues, nothing alone can carry that weight, but I am saying that it is a step forward. That it can be a handhold for you too.

Find an art or hobby you enjoy. Reach out to a counselor. Find a friend who you can be completely open with. We can turn this thing around together. We can ease the stigma attached to mental health. We can see positive change inside of ourselves and leave a better world for those coming up behind us. I speak for The Foundry community when I say, “We love you. You are valuable. You are important and a needed part of our family.”

Maybe The Foundry will be a great first step for you out of isolation and toward health. It was for me. And at the very least, maybe you’ll learn how to make the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Much love, y’all!