Trauma Under the Bridge | Trauma Recovery Short Film Revisited
In 2017, I met and worked with the remarkable Sharon Wise.
A bit of background on Sharon:
Sharon Wise is a force. She is an award-winning activist with her own business who travels around the country healing people through the use of art. Sharon has over 20 years in the mental health consumer movement and has operated the first 100% consumer-run organization in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. She holds a Master’s in Human Services, is a certified whole health and peer specialist, a certified WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) facilitator, and a mega-talented visual and performing artist.
A bit more background on Sharon:
Sharon’s life story is the force behind her activism. She was diagnosed with a mental illness at a young age and was hospitalized for the first time at the age of nine. Throughout her life, she was in over thirty psychiatric institutions and hospitals, many times on an involuntary basis, where she was secluded and restrained. She experienced homelessness and became addicted to drugs during her youth. At one point in her life, she lived under a bridge. In this dark period of her life, Sharon lost custody of her two children. Through a lot of hard work and a tremendous recovery effort, she was reconnected with her son. When we met in 2017, however, she was still estranged from her daughter, Niyyah.
The story of this film:
When I met Sharon to discuss working on a film together, she openly shared her life story, which was filled with such tremendous challenges and generational trauma. When she spoke of Niyyah. Her pain was visible and palpable. She told me how she was working on the relationship, though it was a struggle. She spoke of how she wished she could explain her choices in a way that Niyyah could hear her.
Immediately, I had a vision of Sharon under a bridge, the place where she had experienced such trauma, writing to Niyyah. The location that had been such a source of such trauma could be reclaimed as a space of recovery. Sharon was immediately on board. She then wrote three letters to Niyyah that provided the narrative framework for our filming. On a very cold winter day, we filmed Sharon as she revisited the location that was the backdrop for the most difficult moments of her life. She faced her past trauma with unbelievable courage and looked to the future with strength and hope.
Sharon calls herself a “surviving spirit,” and what a beautiful spirit she is. I feel so fortunate to have met and worked with her, and I’m happy to share “A Letter to Niyyah: Trauma Under the Bridge” with you. It’s tough and beautiful, tremendously sad and remarkably hopeful. Sharon Wise is one strong, brave human. Her story of strength and persistence, of love and connection continues to inspire me. I hope it does the same for you.