Monday, August 23, 2010

Consumer or Hero?

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!

6 comments:

froggy said...

Interesting piece.

Anonymous said...

Cinda and Linea,
Those of us who were able to hear your presentation at the NAMI Washington conference SO appreciated your honesty, love and courage. You're part of the NAMI family now!
Thank you so much,
Farrell Adrian,
President, NAMI WA

Alexandra said...

My husband always says I am the strongest person he knows, but that I don't get any recognition for it because I hide my illness so well. But if I don't hide my illness then people see me as weak. It's sort of a catch-22...

Megan said...

Hi Cinda! I haven't connected with you in a while. You are so right that people with mental illnesses are heros, no less than those who deal with physical illnesses. I cringe whenever our local children's hospital has fundraisers because it is always for kids with cancer, or autism, or diabetes, and never for the thousands of kids with mental illnesses who are just as sick. It makes me mad, and I wish I had the energy to make a fuss. The hospital doesn't even have a pediatric psych unit and yet it has every other specialty unit you can think of! What is wrong with this picture? Why don't our kids get the same kind of world class care and research? This is just a shame. The local psych hospital has a pediatric unit but it is AWFUL and we will never send our dd there again after two very traumatic (unnecessarily) experiences that left her with PTSD and more issues to work through than when she came in. We have to drive her an hour and a half away to another hospital to get cutting-edge, compassionate care, not a prison experience.

Joshua said...

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Anonymous said...

amazing stuff, God bless, Pastor Jim