Last year, I walked because mental health treatment allows me to live a happy, healthy life as a person with bipolar disorder, and because I’m thankful for the resources NAMI and other organizations provide.  This year, I’m walking in memory of my Grandma Ruth, with whom I shared an affinity for animals, a penchant for all sorts of people, a love of laughter, as well as a struggle with mental illness.

In her last twenty years, which were also my first twenty, my grandma’s life alternated between crippling depression and vibrant health.  She would lock herself into her apartment for years, and then emerge like a rare and beautiful orchid for a few seasons.  In healthy times, she’d ride the train me with me from Buffalo to a cabin on the Hudson Bay where we’d fish with my cousins and she’d tell us stories that would have made our parents cringe.  She also volunteered at the Ronald Macdonald House and cared for the organization’s therapy dog.  Then for years she’d descend into darkness again.

I’m walking this year because my grandma lived in a time when mental illness was heavily misunderstood and stigmatized, resources were lacking, and treatment was rare.  I’m walking because we’ve come a long way, but there’s so far to go, and because walking is my way of saying “Hey, it’s okay… We can live rich, full lives if we get the help we need.”

– Jillian B. Glazer, team captain, Trillium Family Services