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Iris Sander - Brave Faces Portrait Gallery

“My name is Iris, and I had my first episode of depression when my mother committed suicide. It lasted 20 years. Depression is a black hole that you can’t see out of. There’s no logic to it. You don’t have the ability to see the good and love in your life. When someone is able to reach you in that state, it requires a very loving act."


"Achieving wellness has been a lifelong avocation for us. My husband and I are Buddhists, and there’s an idea in Buddhism about polishing the mirror. With a polished mirror your life has clarity, and I feel James and I are polishing our mirror together in life, and it has begun to bear fruit, to bear happiness.”

Listen to Iris speak about achieving wellness and what's she learned from recovery.


“When I was younger, I thought for years, ‘What on earth is wrong with me? I can’t figure this out. Why do I not feel well when others around me feel differently?’ I didn’t have a reason for suffering. I was doing well, I wasn’t homeless, I always had plenty of everything. But I felt awful. I had to find out why. I couldn’t not find out why."



“So I’ve researched. I’ve studied. I’ve experimented with medication and found what worked for me. I’ve gone to school. I’ve meditated. I’ve done religious practices, all with the notion that somehow I would find myself. And it’s taken a little bit from each one of these processes to come to a sense of who I am.”




“James and I, our meeting was really synchronistic. We were in a labor relations class, and we were doing a rope course to build trust. It was scary. Oh my goodness, I hate heights. He gave me confidence when it was really terrifying.

We’ve made our lives richer. This picture is kind of a symbol of him as a knight in shining armor. He wanders around the neighborhood, picks up litter, fixes the road, mows the lawn for our neighbor who’s a widow. He’s pretty wonderful.”



“Stigma is an excruciatingly, painful and real phenomenon. It exists widely in this country, and especially in the misconceptions that people with mental illness can’t be trusted, that they don’t have abilities and skills, and that they’re dangerous. People who live with mental illness have the same desires, skills, abilities and drive as anyone else. That needs to be acknowledged."




"We need to be appreciated for what we bring to the table. You can reach out and help them to be whole. The reduction of stigma is a hugely important part of that. If people aren’t trusted, if they’re taught they’re less than everyone else, if they’re told their lives don’t matter . . .well, that is worse than the illness.”