May 31, 2010

The Courage to Change

It has been quite a while since I have posted anything on here so I must apologize.  With all the work we have been doing the blog has fallen a bit behind. I would also like to let you all know that I have been given the honor of creating and manning the brand new BringChange2Mind blog ( so when I am not writing here, please check the BC2M blog to see if I am posting there. I will try my hardest to stay loyal to both.

And now a quick update... In the last month since I wrote I have been to St. Louis, Chicago, and New York, and been the team leader for two NAMI Walks, one in Seattle and the other in Portland. It has been an extremely inspiring, energizing, and exciting month as I made new friends (the Close/Pick family, Kitty and her mom, the Francolini family, and so many more), learned about new research and treatments, and met and listened to new and old heroes (Glenn Close, Jessie Close, Calen Pick, Kay Redfield Jamison, Marya Hornbacher, and Rosalyn Carter). If you don't know who some of these people are please look them up as they are all heroes in the mental health awareness (and women empowerment) world. I have had the honor of attending fabulous events in cities I had only dreamt about ten years ago. But it has not been all easy and joyous.

As I present and speak publicly about my illness and my (relative) stability I feel as if I need to always be happy, and if not, always act happy. I had gotten to the point where I found myself presenting a false image because I feared that if I let people know that I still get depressed sometimes, or still feel unsteady sometimes, they will feel there is no hope. I felt that if I am going around the country telling people that there is treatment and stability for people with mental illness, my hiccups in stability would prove this false. I have talked about this before in a past post so I won't go into it completely now other than I promised myself that I would always be completely honest, so, here it is...

The last month has been extremely hard as well. It has not only been the anniversary of my first hospitalization and the exhaustion of five national trips in one month followed by two 5K walks, but meeting so many people with one's same story is very difficult. Meeting so many people that share your story and hearing their struggles not only feels comforting as you are swiftly pulled from the aloneness of a diagnosis, but it also reminds you of all the pain you experienced. It reminds each individual of how lonely you really were and how different your life would have been had you just had this new friend(s) with you from the beginning. It is strangely validating, empowering, and comforting, and yet, it is often painful to meet people with such similar stories of agony, near suicide, self-harm, self-medication, etc., etc., etc. It is beautiful because everything is suddenly okay. You have found yourself on solid ground. But you can't hep but remember how terrifying it is to dangle from the cliff.

The last month has been more than exhilarating. It has reminded me of how much I love my family, how happy I am that I am alive, and how honored and lucky I am to have the opportunity and the health to do all the things that I do. It has once again reminded me why I need to continue to speak and share my story. People should not be alone in this fight. People should not have to feel pain when they finally find community years after their initial diagnosis. People should feel comforted, cared for, and loved from the very beginning. Feeling the ups and downs of this month has made that fact even more present in my mind. We need to change things now. We cannot let this continue to happen. We cannot let so many of our children end up on the streets, end up incarcerated, end up losing their lives by self-medicating. We cannot let a treatable enemy like suicide claim so many victims because they are alone and scared. We need to talk about this. We need to change things fast. Please help us change things by sharing stories, by letting people know that they are not alone. In my mind the biggest way to fight stigma is to talk. Share your truth. We need to remind the nation that 1 in 6 adults suffers from a mental illness by sharing real stories from the heart. Please have courage, for all of us.