I just returned from the Washington State NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) conference where my youngest daughter and I were honored to present to a wonderful audience of people from all over the state. Our topic was entitled, "From Trauma to Empowerment". Our audience included professionals in mental health care, family members and "consumers". Isn't that a strange word for someone who is living with a mental health condition? A consumer is someone who uses services or buys products. So, yes, many of the people at the NAMI conference are indeed consumers. They see psychiatrists, psychologists, medical doctors, therapists, vocational rehabilitation specialists, clinicians, dietitians, etc. etc. and more etc. They purchase medications, therapy, yoga, exercise sessions and much more. But in addition to "consumer"
I would call every person with a mental health condition a hero. Personally I have witnessed most of what my daughter has gone through with her diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder. As her mom, I, too, have been "brave" but nothing close to what is called for from those in the trenches of mental illnesses. I spoke with so many people at the conference for whom each and every day takes the utmost strength and courage to move through it and forward to the hope and possibility of recovery. These heroes include the R.N. who has struggled for the last three years to treat a severe and debilitating depression yet managed to get herself across the state to attend this important conference. It includes the man who has moved into stability, helping others with their own illnesses. He achieved stability, finally, after years of attacks from schizophrenia, forcing him into the fog of a broken mind and without the ability to live the life he has today. The heroes include the people who were not there, but represented by loving family members. These people struggle through each day in a treatment facility, very aware of the pain and anguish of illnesses that knock one off center and force a tenacity of spirit that most of us have never known.
When an illness strikes the body we muster our forces to manage it. We read and study and ask questions and find support groups. When mental illness strikes, the attack on the brain may not allow for the person to put together a "wellness plan". It may only be possible to make it through one day at a time. Bravery. Courage. And, once a person is approaching some stability, they must continue with this amazing strength to continue treatment, stay steady and fight each day to be well. Most of the people at the NAMI conference are not only in this fight for themselves but for others. Each day they live as heroes, in their own lives and for other individuals and society as a whole. If you aren't aware of the work that NAMI does consider joining, volunteering and/or donating. I cannot cheer loudly enough for the heroes in this battle!