Why participate in our walk? The reasons are many, but we thought we would share some of the more personal and compelling stories from our walkers and why they think the NAMI Walk is important.

My husband of 47 years has had bipolar disorder since he was a teenager. Despite battling this disabling brain disorder for over a half century, Paul has accomplished many things, but he has also had times when he has been very  ill and never more so than from 2002 to 2007.  His doctors termed it treatment resistant depression and his prospects for recovery were very slim.

In May of 2007, the NAMI Washington County newsletter published a summary on the latest research from the National Institute of Mental Health on bipolar depression. This information ultimately led to Paula’s doctor charting a new path of treatment and medications for Paul. Within 3 days of new medications, Paul was out of bed and began his upward journey to recovery.

Today, two years later, Paul volunteers for two libraries and for NAMI, and has become a member of a NAMI Outreach Team that speaks to patients in the behavioral (mental health) ward at St. Vincent Hospital. When Paul tells his riveting story, there is not a sound or a dry-eye in the audience.

Afterwards, patients come up to shake his hand and thank him for his inspiration. For you see, Paul has been where they are and he is proof positive that you can recover and become a contributing member of society again. We call it the Journey of Hope.

On May 17th, we walk to give our thanks to NAMI for the support they have given us. We walk to help others have a brighter future. We walk because we care. -Sydney Lizundia

***

My daughter was diagnosed as bipolar 25 years ago. She lost her entire youth, fighting to survive. After 8 hospitalizations, and many attempts to find medications to help her, she is now stable and happy. Though she will never gain back all those years she lost in socialization, education, and career, she sees herself as lucky!

Because of her, I have become a more tolerant, patient, and yes, grateful person. She did not leave us — she stayed, even when she didn’t want to. In a grateful tribute to her courage, I walk. It is the least, but not the only thing, I can do. –Linda Dunn

***

I am walking in memory of my friend Ward O’Brien, who was shuffled throughout the system throughout his entire life, through no fault of his own.

Like many other people living with mental illness, Ward was treated as a throwaway person. With his death at age 50, he became a statistic: people with mental illness are likely to die as many as 25 years earlier than other people, usually from treatable ailments that have not been cared for.

I’m walking because this needs to change, and to make the statement that people like myself who are living with mental illness are members of the community, like everyone else; that we are not and should not be stigmatized and that we deserve equal access to healthcare and recovery. –Michelle Madison

***

As a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I have been lost before.  I have wandered the streets.  I have forgotten my identity.  I have been enraged and terrified and depressed.  I have been out of control.

Because I am very fortunate, I received the treatment that allowed me to regain control of my world.  My self-identity, my spirit, my personality… I have found myself again.

Today, as part of the team at Trillium Family Services, I work each day to ensure that children in our community receive the treatment that will help them achieve their full potential.

I walk because I know I am moving in the right direction and because I know that others deserve the same opportunity to reach their dreams.  I walk because I believe that every person, given the proper support and care, has the ability to thrive. -Jillian Glazer

***

I am involved because I have a daughter who has a mental illness.  During the last episode it took us 1 ½ years to get her into the treatment she needed and by that time she was so sick, it took almost six months of hospitalization and inpatient treatment to get her well enough to now be on her own.  I am thankful she is still alive, because for a while I was not sure she would make it to her thirtieth birthday this year.

Tessa is my inspiration.  Her illness has prompted me to become involved and tell our story. – Michele Veenker

***

Last fall, my son Tony would have turned 36 years old. To honor his memory and to support others that suffer diseases similar to what he had, my wife and I again this year walk on “His” team and work to raise funds to support NAMI-CC (Clackamas County Oregon).  Tony loved to give away teddy bears to street people and children.  That is why we call our team The Teddy Bears.  Many of you have walked with us in the past and many more have donated funds to our team.  I promise you that in addition to this walk and fund raising efforts, Donnie and I will donate our hearts, and many hours of our spare time, to NAMI, working to better the lives of the way too many of our community who suffer the horrors of mental illness. -Mark Anderson

***

I want to help in a small way, to endorse, support, and grow with my peers at NAMI. I also walk raise funds for our In Our Own Voice and Peer to Peer programs, where I mentor and give presentations. And the exercises and walk are helpful in just everyday life. I hope this is the start of an energetic adventure I can do yearly. – George Hagerman

***

I am retired with a background in commercial property management, legal assistant, probate paralegal, assistant controller in commercial development and construction and worked in the accounting department for CPA’s.  I am also an artist and my work was exhibited at the Hyde Gallery, Grossmont College in Southern California .

I was thirty-three when I was first diagnosed with a mental illness, Bipolar I.  One year prior to this, a decision was made to sell my home in Southern California and relocate to the Oregon Coast .  I was tutoring children in three elementary schools and raising two children of my own.  I was prolific in my artwork, sketching portraits and pen and ink drawings of the coastal countryside and Victorian houses.  Art was my passion.

I found it difficult to sleep, eat, stay focused and complete projects.  After two weeks of sleep deprivation, my color vision faded and I viewed my surroundings in monochrome.  I rode an emotional rollercoaster and felt powerful, elated, and creative, then confused, frightened, trapped, paranoid, panicky and, at last, psychotic.

After returning home from a two-week psychiatric hospitalization, I felt isolated in the realm of my new reality.  Due to the older psychotropic medications, I was unable to function normally.  I arose to see my children off to school, then returned to bed.  I had severe weight loss, down to 98 pounds.  I was living in a nightmare from the trauma of a psychosis.  My life’s journey had been interrupted, my self-esteem was diminished and I believed my identity was lost to the stigma of an illness that I did not understand.  I mourned my loss inwardly, the loss of my creative self, the very core of my soul!

It has been a twenty-eight year struggle with this illness and acceptance for me came slowly.  It was three years after my first hospitalization before the correct medication was found that controlled the frequent episodes.  I gave up my denial, entered therapy and became educated on my illness.  I have accepted that I have a mental illness and it does not define who I am.  Acceptance gives me permission to take care of myself and cherish my blessings:

  • Six-year remission.
  • Family, friends and peer support.
  • Recovery and ability to move from recovery into advocacy.

It is a dream of mine to be able to give back what has been given to me and enrich my life in the process.  This is why I walk for NAMI.  I now know that I have a voice, focus on the gifts that my disability offers and share my experience to give hope to others and pursue my dreams without ever giving up.  This year I am walking in honor of my mom, children, grandchildren, and the rest of my wonderful family, as well as friends who have never given up on me. – Susan Greenawald

***

I met a woman who suffers from depression, while she was in one of her worst episodes and had attempted suicide.  She showed me what complete hopelessness looks and feels like. I was so deeply sad for her and felt so powerless to help her except to keep her safe from herself until the doctor could find the right medication to help her.  Later I found this person homeless because her husband could no longer deal with her mental illness so he filed for a divorce and forced her out of their home.  When I brought her home with me I learned how limited her options were.  She struggled to keep her life on a good path and do all that she could to prevent relapse and live as normally as possible. I walk for this sweet wonderful woman who showed me what mental illness can feel like. – Susan Ayres

***

I have spent most of my life watching a family member suffer from mental health issues. Now that I have a daughter with severe anxiety, I celebrate her successes and share her pain at the struggles she faces.

I walk so she knows I’ve got her back and so others like me – with a loved one who suffers – and people like her – who win and lose battles every day – know they aren’t alone in this battle. –Rachel Petzold

***

I stand to walk.
I walk to stand.
Awareness and wellness
walk hand in hand.

-Rachel Gill

I am diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and Agoraphobia with Panic Disorder. I am also a full-time college student half way to an associate of arts degree. I have a supportive partner, family, therapeutic and learning environments that each help me draw the strength and courage I need to gain health. The present system of care prevented me from receiving such for three years. I felt like an account to whom which no one was accountable. Authorization denied.

I walk to take action toward change. I walk to stand against subsidizing life.

The state licensing board sent back the evidence of my complaint, said it was not within their jurisdiction.

This is after appealing to every advocacy group and relevant government official in county and state. I escaped the clutches of managed care by way of an uncommonly referenced statute that exempts members of federally recognized tribes from being required to enroll in a managed care plan. I reference the statute and provided proof of my tribal heritage when I first submitted my application. It took between fifty and seventy-five people in charge before finding one who was willing to take the time to verify my request and release me from managed care. This solved my problem. Meanwhile, the health administrator still holds a county position that is both in breach of state contract and law.

I walk because I do not want to stand alone. Life is not a commodity. I walk because I know that a community is only as healthy as its individuals. I walk in sickness and in health. I walk for the wellness of my whole community.

Problems do not die, people are. Abuse is often disguised as protection. I walk to unmask the truth. I walk to take a stand for my health and yours.

Colleges are required, by law, to provide Disability Accommodations for students with documented psychological disorders, and yet, I have not met one instructor who has provided them before me.

It is challenging, at times, to know how to structure learning for someone with complicated, emotional problems. Borderline Personality Disorder is difficult to deal with for the person who has it, but no less for those around them. The slightest disagreement can trigger an emotional crisis. I am grateful for the patience I have been shown in school, my therapists and from the few who are close to me.

Disability accommodations and Managed Care are only two of many examples that demonstrate how lack of awareness may lead to neglect and abuse. I cannot help but wonder how many people do not seek help because they either feel embarrassed, ashamed, rejected, mistreated or simply do not know where to turn.

I have worked very hard to make what progress I do. It is a lifelong walk to wellness, the only path to life for us all. Ignorance considers mental illness a mark of disgrace. It is a disgrace to cast judgment upon sickness. I stand to walk. I walk to stand. Awareness and wellness walk hand in hand.

I walk to stomp out stigma.

Rachel Gill
Team Captain, Stigma Stompers

***

I was diagnosed with bipolar in the summer of 2005. I was hospitalized eight times within a year and half. Prior to being diagnosed I was a noble and law abiding citizen. I was known for my outgoing personality, kindness, and consideration for others. This all changed when I became manic. Paranoia and delusions consumed me. I became so paranoid that I thought my husband was out to kill me for life insurance money. This caused me to hitchhike across the country and ultimately becoming homeless.

While I was homeless I was driven to destruction. I crossed the law, experimented with drugs and had many boyfriends. Luckily, I was found at a 7-11 in a delusional state. I was screaming at people that were no where to be seen. The police arrested me and instead of jail they took me straight to a mental institution. This is where I got my second chance at life. I was stabilized on medication and sent home for recovery.

Today I lead a very fulfilling life. I have a very loving and nurturing relationship with my husband, I work part time, I’m going to school and I’m writing a memoir. I truly believe that if it wasn’t for the mental health system that rescued me that at best I would still be that crazy woman wandering the streets that everybody hurries to pass by.

-Mechelle Hoselton

5 Responses to “Why we walk”

  1. Curtis Says:

    On March 29th, 1995 I walked. I walked for eight miles. Voices that only I heard were telling me to go. A voice told me that the world would be better off without me. I tried to walk away. I stopped on Mt. Davidson. The voices did not. Another said I would feel better if I were dead. I walked again, stopping next in Golden Gate Park. The voices did not rest. I was told to move faster, people were coming after me. I walked out of the park, through the Presidio, onto the Golden Gate Bridge. I climbed over the railing and looked down at the cool, green, water far below.

    “Jump!” shouted a chorus.

    I did not. I climbed back over the railing. The bridge patrol arrived a few minutes later. On this day I was admitted to a hospital for the first time. My journey started on a warm spring day in San Francisco. Years later, over twenty different medications later, I have some stability.

    I walk with NAMI so that others may find help without the terror I felt. I walk so that others don’t have to fight as many fights. I walk to make this country a better place for those of us with a mental illness.


  2. WHY I WALK

    I will walk in memory of my son Greg who I lost on April 16th. Greg would have been 21 years old in June.

    Although many people knew of Greg’s substance abuse, few knew that Greg was diagnosed at age 6 with the neuro-developmental disorder Tourette’s Syndrome and later, with “mood disorder unspecified,” most probably schizoaffective disorder. There is a reason for this: there is more understanding and less stigma attached to substance abuse than to Tourette’s and mental illness in our society. My son suffered so much in this life… I wanted people to be open to what a sensitive, wonderfully unique person Greg was and diagnostic labels close minds.

    My son Greg had moments of sheer joy in this life, but days and months and years of sheer mental pain from which he could not escape. My walk will be for Greg and for all those who who suffer the pain and the stigma of mental illness.

  3. joni Says:

    Why I will Walk

    I was diagnosied with Schizoaffective disorder when i was 35 years old. The first time I was hospitalized I was 25… it took a lot of years to be diagnosied right, partly because I was afraid to tell anyone what I was really going through…

    My sister is Bi-Polar.

    Our father died of a rare brain disease in 1997. He was Dx with Schizophrenia.

    Mental Illness has affected many of our family members.

    It is not an easy thing to talk about, as people do not understand it and are afraid of it. When people hear you have a mental illness, they tend to distance themselfs from you.

    I will walk and raise money this year and every year to come for all of those who suffer from and are survivors.

    I call us survivors, becuse you have to fight hard to break through the stygma and the stuggles that go along with it.

    I walk because I belive that people like me diserve to be heard and a part of every day life with out bieng looked upon as though we should not be allowed out in the public.

    I will walk to remember my father, my uncle and to support my sister.

    I will walk because I love my self enough to know that Im worth it. This cause is worth it… We are not alone… We are survivors

    Joni team captain Angel_Wings Survivors

    1. naminwwalk Says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your story, Joni! We are worth it.

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