It was Easter morning 1987 when I found myself sitting alone on the floor of a bus station in New York City. I had no money, no home, no job, no food, no family, no friends and no God. I was 22 and had been using alcohol, street drugs and food to self-medicate since I was 12. That Easter morning was the result of a life spiraling out of control for reasons I did not understand. I was finally hospitalized after a suicide attempt and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I returned home to Southern California, mentally beaten and barely alive.I had been so unhappy, gained 100 pounds, and couldn’t keep a steady job or relationship. Upon returning to California, I was re-diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in 1997, after being misdiagnosed for over a decade. My medications changed, and when I joined a NAMI Connection group, my life began to change as well.I found a community of people living with mental illness when, for first time, I was surrounded by others who were going through similar situations.
Finally, I wasn’t alone. NAMI Connection sparked something in me. When I saw that others who were living with mental illness could have such a positive impact on my life and the lives of people in my community, it sparked a desire to share my story and make a difference. I decided to take the trainings to become a facilitator.I now facilitate two NAMI Connection groups and share my story through NAMI In Our Own Voice. I also work as a Peer Support Specialist and facilitator at Mariposa Clubhouse, a community-based program in California for people living with mental illness. Sharing my story of a lived experience with mental illness through NAMI programs gives me a new take on life. I find hope in sharing my story because I know the difference that it makes; I have been on the other side. I have been hospital free since 2010, and my life now includes healthy habits, strong faith in God, support and sharing joy with friends and my community - a far cry from that New York City bus station.
NOTE: For information about meetings or training for these programs, contact the NAMI office (433-0219).NAMI Connections is a weekly or monthly support group for people living with a mental health condition.NAMI In Our Own Voice provides training to make a presentation to promote awareness of mental illness and the possibility of recovery.NAMI Peer-to-Peer a recovery education course open to anyone experiencing a mental health challenge. The course is facilitated by someone who has lived experience with mental illness and is in a state of recovery.
All NAMI SWLA support groups are cancelled until further notice. See the recommendations of the CDC at www.cdc.gov. Participants of our NAMIWalks event may still join our fundraising efforts by registering online for a virtual walk or by supporting a walker on a team already registered at www.namiwalks.org. Our walk date is April 18, 2020. Please consult regularly for accurate information concerning COVID-19 or by dialing 211. Anyone experiencing anxiety may text "NAMI" to 741741 to speak to a mental health professional.