ABOUT REBECCA’S DREAM, WHO WE ARE, WHAT WE DO, HOW WE DO IT, AND WHY.
WHAT WE DO
THE STORY OF REBECCA’S DREAM
REBECCA’S DREAM – THE STORY CONTINUES
Bringing a Dream to Life
It all began with a tattoo of the phoenix. Rebecca was feeling well, hopeful and full of the possibilities for living a life of passion, awareness and compassion for herself and all those she knew and had yet to meet who lived with mood disorders. She was 28 when she had the phoenix tattooed on the small of her back. Her father and I were horrified. We did not understand the significance of that bird to Rebecca–the magical creature of ancient myth that dies and rises again from its own ashes. We did not understand it was Becky’s statement, to herself, that she had come through very dark times and felt reborn. We just didn’t get it.
Rebecca loved to help people—friends and strangers alike. If she knew or suspected someone needed guidance, support, warmth, a shoulder to cry on, or a helping hand, she was front and center. I don’t know how many folks she guided toward better mental health, but I do know she did just that, through her ability to listen and empathize. Rebecca knew the pain of depression and loss of hope for a life of meaning and purpose. She also knew just the opposite was true, even while living with a mood disorder. She had great spirit and wisdom.
Rebecca’s 30th birthday was November 13, 2004. To celebrate that special occasion, she planned a fundraiser for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) to begin the process of changing the face of depression. She knew it was risky business. Who wants to celebrate a birthday by raising funds for depression? Becky did. She knew something had to be done to teach people the truth about mental health, and she was willing to start with her own story.
Her fundraiser birthday party didn’t happen. Instead, Becky had a smaller, quieter celebration with family and friends. The following June she was no longer with us.
This is the backstory to Rebecca’s Dream, the phoenix logo and the Rebecca Lynn Cutler Legacy of Life Foundation. Today, Becky’s family and friends carry forward with her dream, and this is how we do it:
Rebecca’s Dream partnered with DBSA for four years until we became an independent 501(c)(3) charitable foundation. We honor the Phoenix and the Dream by raising funds through a yearly benefit, individual donations and smaller “meet-and-greet educational friend-raisers” held throughout the year. Our goals remain the same as Rebecca’s—to promote awareness and compassionate understanding of depression and bipolar disorder as real diseases.
In 2010, Rebecca’s Dream funded three programs that carry forward our mission and vision of changing the face of depression. These programs include a study guide to accompany and enhance the video “Real Teenagers Talking About Depression,” which targets 8th graders through high school sophomores; a custom theatrical production sharing five true stories of young women impacted by depression and bipolar disorder; and a program titled “Speak Out Against Stigma,” which emphasizes the impact of depressive disorders on families and the need for effective diagnosis, treatment and health care coverage.
In 2013, Rebecca’s Dream awarded 40 scholarships to those who were otherwise financially unable to attend DBSA’s annual national conference in Florida (June, 2013). All recipients were grateful for the generosity and compassionate understanding of Rebecca’s Dream.
The Rebecca Lynn Cutler Legacy of Life Foundation is propelled by the dream Rebecca left us—to teach the world that, while mental health issues are real, individuals can live productive lives filled with hope, commitment and courage. Education is the backbone of Rebecca’s Dream. It is our reason for being. It is the passion that stokes the fire beneath the Phoenix. It is what Rebecca wanted to accomplish and what we will pursue—not just for her—but for all of the individuals living with mood disorders, their families, their friends, and their colleagues, so that they may live their lives to the fullest.
We will continue to grant funds to organizations and foundations that share our vision and mission. Thank you for joining us on the wings of a dream. Hold on tight! We have places to go and much to accomplish.
It was June 7, 2004. You died on June 7, 2004. It feels like yesterday . . . like today . . . and like all the tomorrows to come. Your laughter, your smile, your wit, your wisdom, your intelligence, your sixth sense, your hugs, your kisses, your beautiful person . . . died on June 7, 2004. Eleven years ago. Eleven years of remembering you and missing you and wishing you were still here on this earth.
Rebecca Lynn Cutler. Becky. My daughter. Once I was able to internalize the shock of your loss, I needed to find a way to keep your glorious spirit alive. The dream. Your dream. I needed to find a way to actualize it. To make it real . . . make it count . . . to make your life count. To continue your work of helping others understand the diseases of depression and bipolar disorder. To continue to teach and promote awareness and compassionate understanding of those in need. To continue where you left off.
Ten years ago, the Rebecca Lynn Cutler Legacy of Life Foundation was born—your dream, Rebecca. It became—and remains—a reality. This November 7, 2015, at the 10th Annual Rebecca’s Dream Benefit, we will acknowledge a decade of celebrating your passion, Rebecca, to help individuals, their families, their friends, their peers, and their colleagues to understand what it feels like to live with depression and bipolar disorder. We will acknowledge that bootstraps do not—cannot—“pull someone up” and out of the pain of mental illness. We will acknowledge that humiliating name-calling only adds to the shame and disgrace already endured by people with this diagnosis. You felt shame. You felt humiliation. You felt “less than” others. You, Rebecca Lynn, wanted and needed to make a difference in the lives of so many people, because you understood the pain–both physical and emotional—of living with mental illness.
Your family and friends have diligently carried forward your dream. What have we been able to accomplish in your name? Look at the Rebecca’s Dream’s website—your website—to begin the journey. It’s known as one of the “go to” sites for mental health awareness, knowledge, and compassionate understanding of the illnesses of depression and bipolar disorder. People all over the world search your website for support, hope, and enlightenment. All over the world, Becky!!!
During our five-year partnership with DBSA, we made a positive impact in the lives of hundreds and hundreds of families and individuals . . . like L. K. who wrote us in 2013: “You helped me with a DBSA scholarship four years ago for a conference and classes, and I am still grateful for your generosity.” Then, in 2010, your family and friends became our own 501(c)3 foundation. The Phoenix was now flying solo. Yes, we were scared. But also determined to continue your mission. And we’ve succeeded beyond our dreams . . .beyond your own dreams, Becky.
During the past five years, RD has partnered with and funded nearly $100,000 in grants to like-minded mental health organizations that also promote awareness and compassionate understanding of depression and bipolar disorder as real diseases. RD developed the ”Teens and Transitions” program for parents of children entering high school. Due to its great success, the third annual program is on the drawing board along with other school-age transition programs. Your mom has been a speaker for mental health awareness in suburban and Chicago schools, at mental health forums, and with your dad on WGN radio and TV. Your dear friend at WGN, Steve Cochran, continues to speak about you and has invited us to speak about RD every year for the past 10 years. Your dream, Rebecca, has been discussed in many Chicago and local newspapers. And then there’s the play (yes, a play!), Tell Me What You Remember, that we co-produced with Erasing the Distance; it tells the story of a family’s journey with mental health. It was a smash hit, Becky!! It garnered rave reviews in the Chicago Around Town and Chicago Stage Standard newspapers. (The first play we co-produced with Erasing the Distance was Good Enough, and it also continues to be informative, touching, and filled with hope.) And your foundation, Becky, has so much more to offer and continues to plan for the immediate now and the near future.
Hope, dear Rebecca. Hope is what you needed so badly. Hope is what you imbued in others. Hope is what saves lives. HOPE.
Just a few days ago, on June 2—a few days before the 11th anniversary of your death—there was a full moon. And this moon, according to the Power Path School of Shamanism in Santa Fe, is filled with hope:
“This moon is energized, inspiring, and supports creative action and breakthrough in ideas, problem-solving and new ways of approaching something. Watch impatience and beware of frustration around not being able to do everything at the same time. Allow yourself to be inspired and lifted by what is showing up most powerfully. There is plenty of time. Do one thing at a time and take that action with enthusiasm.”
I promise you, Becky, that I will watch my tendencies toward frustration and impatience (both are plentiful in my nature, as you well know) and not try doing everything at the same time. I will remember your inspiring energy and support of others as you helped them break through into their own problem-solving and new ways of approaching their lives. I promise, Becky, to take one thing at a time . . . with enthusiasm.
And I promise to remain hopeful that your dream—to end the stigma of mental illness—will become reality. Even though I want to END THE STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS NOW, I will remain hopeful and patient.
Your dream will live on and flourish. You show up most powerfully to inspire and lift us all up to become more of who we are. You may not be here, but you are everywhere. You are the dreamer of dreams. You are my beloved child, Rebecca Lynn Cutler.