I walk because of the devastating impact that misinformation and lack of resources can have on someone who is holding on to a fragile balance. I walk for my friend Brenda who suffered with the pain and confusion of Borderline Personality Disorder since she was a pre-teen. Her family and church did not recognize her as ill, nor did they understand her struggle. So the “problem” child stuffed everything inside and moved away from the very people she needed most.

Brenda was intelligent, funny and an enjoyable co-worker. She was also an expert at hiding the pain she did not understand. She was embarrassed and feared what people would think of her if they knew her constant dark thoughts and how badly she felt she was handling life.  After she experienced a psychotic break, she found it difficult to connect to resources to help her manage her life and get the treatment she needed. She was still fragile and confused and was left alone to navigate complex systems to find the resources to survive. What do you do when you are not able to work, don’t qualify for unemployment but the bills keep coming in? How do you get to counseling and classes across town to help you get better when you are heavily medicated and can’t drive?  And, how do you pay for those prescriptions, classes and counseling sessions? Where do you live when your home is no longer a safe place for you to be? How can you handle all of this when your brain is not cooperating?

Friends stepped up to help her connect with resources and after at least 25 years of living with pain, she was finally on the right balance of medication, knew what her illness was and she was learning how to reprogram her thinking patterns. Brenda felt hope and was on a path to recovery.  But a personal disappointment too soon in her recovery overwhelmed her and she ended her life. She was just 35.

Her loss was devastatingly sad. What is even sadder is that her family never did understand that Brenda was ill and not just “the problem daughter;” her church never knew they fed her pain with misinformation about mental illness; and, it was only because she had determined friends—and luck—that she was able to get the help she needed for that brief glimpse of hope and recovery.

I support NAMI and walk for all the Brenda’s, and families, who need understanding, resources and hope.

Won’t you join me?  

Jan McKenzie, executive director, NAMI Clark County, and team captain, Team Clark County