April 09, 2021

Inspirational Stories from Students and TMI Project at Bard College

Last month we were awed and inspired as we participated in a viewing of the virtual performances of the students at Bard who created their mental health stories in conjunction with the storytelling facilitators at the TMI Project. TMI Project seeks to raise awareness and amplify the voices of those who have inspiring stories to share about living with mental illness in the Hudson Valley and throughout the United States.

JKBF’s 2020 grant to Bard funded a 12-session workshop with students, Bard wellness staff, and the TMI facilitators that resulted in these students’ personal stories of their mental health challenges and suicide experiences. We were impressed by the honesty, transparency, vulnerability, bravery, resilience and growth exhibited by these students, and their efforts at letting themselves be seen and raising awareness. We were also thrilled to see them engage and support each other, and in every way this project embodied our three pillars: creating, connecting, and contributing. Thank you to Bard Health, Counseling and Wellness for allowing JKBF to be part of this important work. TMI and Bard have made a selection of these students’ insightful and inspiring stories available on YouTube.

Some story excerpts shared by participating students:

Senior year, I’m nominated for a scholarship, a full-tuition scholarship, that will take me to a college that has everything I want in my post-secondary education; psychology, film, a small community, and activism. I’m excited and nervous because so many students get nominated, kids from my school, from my county, some from wealthy neighborhoods, and at the moment, all I feel is me, a little girl who dreams big but feels low, like the gutter low, like T-pain “shawty got low low low,” – like below sea level low. – N’Kira Hailey

When I am little and a flamboyant gay character appears on the TV in my family living room, I stare blankly at the screen to avoid eye contact with my parents. When I tell my kindergarten friend I like to play princess dress up, she looks at me in shock and disbelief. The first few times I come out to people, I can’t even say the word gay. I say “Oh, by the way, I like guys,” or “You know that character in that book we read? I’m like him. “Gay” is so daunting. Permanent. I don’t want my sexuality to be all that I am. As a queer person, you’re conditioned to believe that you will never be enough, either in the eyes of society, to yourself, or often both. – Grant Venable

I’m embarrassed to eat because I worry that people will think I’m a glutton. I don’t want people seeing me work out because I’m afraid they’ll find it laughable. More than anything I don’t want anyone to know I had an eating disorder. I don’t even fully believe I have an eating disorder because I don’t look the part. I think that not being skinny means I’m not sick. – Lily Clough

For more insights on the impact of this workshop please read a fellow student’s review of the March 11 performance. In addition, Bard staff have shared these reflections from participating students.

Thank you for this experience. I can’t even explain how much this helped me get through my first semester. TMI was my saving grace and the thing I looked forward for these past several weeks.

An amazing workshop that allowed me to be free and connect with others.

My experience was absolutely lovely. The workshop coordinators and other participants have changed my life.

You aren’t responsible for other people’s perspectives. Just say what happened to you, as you experienced it.

I’m so much more than my story. It’s a part of me but it’s not all of me. I have so much to share and live for.

I learned so much about the way other people think, write, process, and cope with trauma. I learned things I would have never known about some of the people around me because they reached out to me telling me that they resonated with my story. I learned to be open minded and to not be afraid to share. I remembered to take my time with processing things and to not to give up on my healing. I won’t forget the smile on my face as I shared my story. I’m happy to make new relationships with people and that I trusted the process. I could have given up and said that I couldn’t finish the program, but I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and wanted to reach it. I felt proud of myself when I finished my performance because I didn’t think my story should be shared or that it was of importance but I did it and I should reward myself for that. I would do this all over again and I hope that I continue to share my story and to open myself up. I shouldn’t worry what others will think or try to write something that is going to impress people. I should just be my authentic self and enjoy the ride called my chaotic life. The major takeaway from the workshops is to really sit and dive into myself and why I am the way that I am.

Your support of JKBF allows us to facilitate creative and meaningful programs such as this one. Bravo to Bard, TMI Project, and these amazing students. We can’t wait to see where you go from here!