When Jasmine Johnson was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) five years after she left active duty in the U.S. Navy, she felt like her life was falling apart.
“Getting diagnosed with a mental illness can knock your feet out from under you,” Johnson says. “I needed something out of the norm to help me find myself.”
Johnson’s found that “something” in Stand Ground, a recent theater production at San Francisco’s CounterPulse in which she performed alongside other women veterans and non-veterans. Together, the women told stories through speech, movement and song about their traumatic experiences on the front lines -- whether in a war zone or daily civilian life.
Stand Ground was conceived by Bay Area theater director Krista DeNio, who has directed other productions that bring veteran and non-veteran participants together through the EchoTheaterSuitcase project. DeNio comes from a military family and was troubled by the way in which the ex-servicemen and women around her internalized their experiences.
“They wouldn’t talk about it,” DeNio says. Making theater is one way of helping people come to terms with the traumas of working in a combat zone. -- Chloe Veltman