Maybe the Storm is Your Purpose

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I’ve been doing REALLY well. Other than a trigger in February that led to a short but intense bout, I’ve been just about completely stable since last August. Definitely a new record for me. I’m going 3 months between psych appointments; and my therapist and I are trying every 3 weeks as opposed to every 2.

I had therapy last week; and my psychiatrist appointment the week before that. My psychiatrist pointed out before the end of our session that she really likes me not working. I wrote about that (“In Sync with Your Mental Health Team”) last week. Sometimes, however…

There are times I truly wish the two members of my mental health team were on different pages. No. Not them. The two are in sync on everything. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m miserable, I love that they’re both on the same wave length with each other. However, when I feel good, sometimes the answers they give aren’t the ones I want to hear. At those moments… I wish they would have a difference of opinion- one that would require meeting somewhere in the middle.

I understood where my psychiatrist was coming from when she talked about my not working- and how SHE liked it; and I was okay with it… or I thought I was. My therapist, last week, shared her sentiments. For those as well as for her own reasons- She pointed out that my not working has allowed me to dictate my routine, schedule, and structure myself- All of which I can’t function without (my last psychiatrist told me I was like a cat walking a fence). I have control over all three of those things. Something that couldn’t happen while working; and something that allows me to be my own nurse far easier than I could before. She pointed out that I’m healthy, that I am far more relaxed than she has EVER seen me, and I’m actually happy. Not only that, but my work for NAMI has done wonders for me.

I thought I was okay with it. And I was… while in her office. I got to Starbucks to wait for my bus; and while there I had time to dwell on it. I was NOT as okay with it as I thought. Her points were valid, just as my doctor’s had been. I’ve been going on the idea of this “not working thing” being temporary. I guess that theory is out the window for the near future. The longer I thought about it, the more it ran through my head- the more I wasn’t alright with it. Not even remotely.

I love working. I loved what I did. Without work… without work I didn’t know who I was. The idea of not going back to a job of any sort left a feeling of uselessness that settled in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I went to walk up to the store that night and I kept stopping to look back toward my street because I couldn’t decide if there was really a point to it…

… Well, have you ever went looking for your glasses and they’re on your head? Or your phone and it’s in your pocket? Those moments when something is right in front of your face as plain as day?

I’ve been working with our Consumer & Family Consumer Program Coordinator, Terri, at NAMI on faith outreach. She had been given a binder of devotionals to use by a former volunteer. I went through them the end of December/beginning of January, taking out the ones that would be triggering. After, Terri and I went through them again to categorize them and make any changes that needed to made (there were some punctuation and spelling issues). Last Thursday I finally got them retyped, printed, and put all nice and pretty in a binder. Terri had got to the office and I told her the binder was on her desk; and asked if we could go through that and what’s next. She comes out a little bit later, comes over to me, and asks, “Can I give you a hug?” I laughed and said sure. She hugged me and said, “They look amazing! I just want to go through and read them all. Give me a half hour and we can look through everything.”

We went through the devotionals binder briefly. After, we started looking through another faith outreach binder to figure out what needs to be done. A former volunteer had given her a lot of the articles that were in it (the ones that didn’t come directly from NAMI FaithNet). Terri said that she’s been wanting to really work on the faith outreach and give it a fresh take off for a long time. Which I knew. She proceeded to say, “God’s got a plan. He sent me you.”

I didn’t think much of it then. Just kind of chuckled and said that I’m excited about it.

After I left, I couldn’t stop smiling when I looked back on it. Then, other moments came to mind. I had been working on typing out the devotionals that Monday in the small conference room/library. Liz, the administrative assistant, came in to chat for a minute. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t going anywhere. Wasn’t leaving them.  The Monday I got back from training to teach Peer-to-Peer, Becky had me teaching a class; and was beyond excited. Kari waiting for me to walk in the end of May so that she could see if I would work a table with her at a high school. Terri telling me I come up in almost every staff meeting because they all want a piece of me…

I hate mental illness. It isn’t fun. It isn’t pleasant. Even the exciting times are ones that you don’t want to look back on. It leaves you scarred in so many ways. Visibly and not.

God has a purpose for everything and everyone. As much as I hate my illnesses, maybe they are the invisible binding of my purpose. Speaking to teens through Ending the Silence and letting them know it’s okay and that they aren’t alone- When we spoke at a high school this past February, a girl self-identified and reached out for help. Going out with In Our Own Voice to various places, teaching Peer-to-Peer, answering the Help-Line, getting faith outreach organized, working tables at health fairs… It’s a mission that needs people. Education, advocacy, support, outreach- the talk surrounding mental health won’t change without them.

And I want to be a part of that change.

I NEVER thought I would be a public speaker. Ever. It is far different giving a presentation for my seniors. Getting up in front of a room full of strangers to talk about some of the roughest times of your life is an adrenaline rush while emotionally draining at the same time. I found that I adore speaking. I can’t wait to get into more high schools this coming academic year.

The faith outreach is slowly coming along. I have the devotionals finished, a book list organized, and other material that should be completed this coming week, and will have a more accurate “plan of attack” as soon as the latter is printed out and put into a binder. Terri and I found a guide for creating a mental health ministry in a church that we’re going to go through in hopes that we can assist churches that want to take that step- even on a small scale. And we’re going to, hopefully, pick a day to give NAMI’s Bridges of Hope presentation and have a Q&A session after with members throughout Cleveland’s faith communities.

In NAMI I have found confidence that I didn’t know I had. I’ve always been purpose driven, but more than ever where mental health is concerned.

I’ve found friends. I had to do an art therapy assignment on what NAMI means to me. I got the assignment the weekend I was going to training for In Our Own Voice with Ellen (our Community Educator- she’s the state trainer for IOOV). I told her about the assignment. Her answer was, “Well that’s easy. You get to hang out with me and Lisa and Kari and Becky and Terri…” She laughed when I actually added that as a page of the assignment. Cassandra pointed out how much Ellen’s answer says on how they feel about me at NAMI.

I found a place where I can help people. I will never deny the importance of what I did while working with seniors. This… Mental illness effects so many, but so few speak up. Peers feel alone. Family members and caregivers feel alone. Often times those impacted my mental health conditions (peers and their loved ones) have no idea where to turn, where to go, or what to do next. Changing language, stopping pill shaming, silencing derogatory comments, ending stigma… Hopefully that can begin to break through the box they feel they’re stuck in. In the mean time, NAMI will be there to help them in any way they can.

I’m not delusional. I live everyday with the knowledge that my mind will decide to betray me at some unknown time on some unknown day. I know that my life will shatter for a length of time yet to be determined.

I also live knowing that I have an awesome mental health team that wants nothing more than to help me, a support system that is small but strong, and that I have safe places such as church and the barn to go to.

Knowing, and ACCEPTING, these last two paragraphs has allowed me to help people in ways I never thought I could. I had to quit my employment because of my mania storms with lightning rods of anxiety. They have become all out weather warnings. Maybe, however… maybe God’s purpose for my life is for the storms to be a rainbow for someone else.

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