Some of you may be new to my site, so I want to take a second to talk a little bit about NAMI and why I've participated in NAMI Walks for the last three years.
NAMI is short for National Alliance on Mental Illness. The organization is doing important work. First, find the NAMI national website here. The volunteer work I do is for my local affiliate, NAMI Ventura County. Find that website here.
NAMI's mission statement is to provide emotional support, education, and resources for families affected by mental illness. Through community collaboration and education, we advocate for a life of quality and dignity–one without discrimination–for all people affected by this illness. (For more information on resources click the About Tracey link above.)
I have so much gratitude for the donations made to my walk campaign this year. Last year I fell short of my goal. This year I was more determined than ever. You, my dear family and friends, came through for me (and for NAMI) in the biggest way. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don't benefit at all from the funds, but the money you donated will go to support much needed programs in our local community.
In case you missed it the first time, here's what I wrote this year about Why I Walk:
Monday, March 25 2013, late afternoon
I remember the date exactly because it was my husband’s birthday. We’d spent the previous 19 hours in the ER at Los Robles with our daughter, waiting for a bed to open up in any psychiatric facility located somewhat nearby. She was 14 years old, and had hurt herself again. The crisis intervention team wouldn’t let us take her home.
When a bed finally became available at Vista Del Mar, my husband and I sat in the lobby there and waited for someone to tell us what was going to happen to our daughter. I was shell-shocked, exhausted, still in my clothes from the day before, and hadn’t slept in 36 hours.
We told our story to a social worker and when it was time to go home the social worker said I should grab a NAMI flyer on our way out, so I did. That was the last I thought about NAMI until my daughter was well on her way to recovery. I wish I’d understood NAMI’s mission sooner.
When the tsunami of effects from my daughter’s mental illness started to recede from our lives, I felt as if I tumbled, rolled, and bobbed my way along with it out to sea. But one day I realized the tumult had stopped. For the first time in ages I could feel the sun on my skin and could take comfort from its warmth. That’s when I knew I needed to get involved. That’s when NAMI came into my life.
In the time between then and now, I’ve taken the Family to Family class, trained to teach that class, and am co-teaching it for the third time. I sit on the program panels for Parents and Teachers As Allies and Ending The Silence. I’ve done the walk, and I’ve been a top ten fundraiser for the walk two years running. I plan to be one again this year. I don’t do this volunteer work because I’m so great. I do it because I’m desperate.
I’m desperate to remember that I’m not alone, that there are many people in this world who understand perfectly well what my family and I went through, and what we continue to go through: the challenges we face, the obstacles we overcome, the successes we achieve, and the setbacks we endure. I walk because I learned a lot about what it takes to get a family through this kind of crisis, and I want to share the information with as many people as I can. I walk because, during the course of my daughter’s illness, I determined that I wanted to become a better person and being of service is one of the best ways for me to achieve that goal. I walk because I’m afraid I'll forget where we were and how far we’ve come. I walk because gratitude is a practice. I walk because of the hugs and the tears and the nods when someone comes up to me and says, "You understand."
"You are not alone," I say, as much to myself as to the other person, to remember that I'm not alone either, and I never was.
If you’re looking for a great organization that needs all the support it can get to spread the word about the realities of living with mental illness, to fight for a better mental healthcare system, and to bust the stigma that surrounds talking about mental illness, NAMI is for you.
The statistics speak for themselves. Right now 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 adolescents is suffering with a mental health issue. May is Mental Health month! Take a minute to educate yourself or reach out to a friend you think might be struggling. A smile, kind word, or hug goes a long way to let someone know they aren't alone.
This year's walk took place at the Ventura Pier on Saturday, April 30, 2016. The air was clean and crisp. The waves were high. The 1,200 participants were upbeat and raring to go. After a few words from NAMI Ventura County and Community supporters, Roberta Griego called out, "Are you ready? Let's go!" And off we went. A wonderful time was had by all on our mission to stomp out the stigma that surrounds talking about mental health challenges.
Again, I'm profoundly grateful for your support. Thank you.