When I was 15, I began to realize that my dad was struggling with delusions and with paranoia that was beyond his control.  Within a short time my father was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and his life, along with mine, began to change.

Within a few short years my dad’s disease progressed until he had lost his job, his home, and his mental health began to rapidly decline.  Within period of time, my aunt, who also had schizophrenia, lost her life due to the disease.  Also around the same time, my older sister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and also began struggling with long periods of mania.

I was on the sidelines, watching as their mental illnesses took away the father and sister that I once knew.  Additionally, my siblings and I have struggled with addiction.

In time I found out about NAMI and all of the services offered.  I took the Family-to-Family class and began advocating for and helping my loved ones. At this point in time, I have seen many of the challenges that my family has faced slowly being overcome by access to medications, social security, treatment, and support from those around us that take the time to understand and care.

I am so thankful that I was able to find hope amongst a sea of chaos and confusion.

I walk to support all of those in my family that struggle with the turbulence and instability that mental illness can bring on.  I walk because I love my family, regardless of their mental health status, and I walk in hopes that one day there will be less of  stigma, more understanding and help, and maybe even a cure for these debilitating diseases.

– Abigail Sieler, team member, Butterflies team

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