Last night, I attended the NAMIWalks kickoff event at Boyd Orchards to begin fundraising for NAMI. Basically, NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness. We are a national organization dedicated to wiping out the stigma associated with mental illness. We had barbecued chicken, heard bluegrass music, played around on their various equipment, then had a hayride to a bonfire where we roasted marshmallows for s’mores. We had to come in early due to lightning, but it was so much fun.
Here is a personal history as to how I came to be known with this organization:
When I was younger, I suffered a psychotic break. All the signs were there: lethargy, slipping grades, no interest in theater (I was a theater bug, one who spelled it “theatre”), and I wrote once about committing suicide. I was placed in a juvenile mental ward on suicide watch, diagnosed with clinical depression, and eventually I was prescribed Paxil. I now go to therapy and take my meds. I like to say “Take the meds, go to therapy, move along,” as how regular the routine has become for me. However, my experience with mental illness does not stop there. My own mother suffers from bipolar disorder. She takes her meds, goes to therapy, moves along as well. She, though, lost her friends, was isolated in her church, and even lost her job as a result of revealing bipolar disorder to those around her. I noticed how increasingly isolated she became. She reached out on the internet, and found a man who scammed her out of $100,000 dollars…when it was all added up. She is currently isolated from her family from talking about it, and only a few people in the family are halfway decent toward her. Most of her friends are on the internet, as are mine. There are, however, bright spots in all of this, and those are the Lord, and NAMI. NAMI has given us friends and acquaintances who are nice, faithful and just good human beings. We all suffer from the same thing, and we all have had people run when they learned of our illnesses. I mean, how many people have heard “I am getting tired of this cancer of yours” like cancer is some moral flaw? Of course, this all stems back from an ancient belief that all illnesses, even physical ones, were signs of something morally wrong, even punishments from God. Of course, there are refutes to that in every religion. The point is, we have suffered terribly from our illnesses, and NAMI has brought us the community we have hoped for and long been denied.
Now, not to say that others have not brought us community, but NAMI has worked among the hardest to bring us out. They are among the kindest, most interesting people I have ever known.