December 2, 2014
Looking back, I experienced symptoms of mental illness as early as four years old. That’s when panic attacks and my history of self-injury began. Unaware that this was abnormal behavior, I never said anything to anyone and went on to be a very successful kid. When I left high school, I had appointments to both West Point and The Naval Academy, as well as a potential career as a professional baseball player. I was the All-American boy.
Fifteen years later, fueled by an incorrect diagnosis of major depressive disorder, the wrong medication and a battle with alcoholism, I found myself in a Delaware County jail holding cell on suicide watch looking at a minimum of three years in prison. As I lay on that concrete floor, I was absolutely befuddled as to how my life had taken such a drastic turn.
Thankfully, I was spared from having to serve any time in prison. I returned to the Cleveland area, and my recovery began to take hold. After I began working with a counselor, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed an effective medication. Since then my life has completely turned around.
I learned about NAMI Greater Cleveland through my counselor. I saw a posting for a NAMIWalks intern. Since my professional background is engineering and sales, they brought me on right away to help with fundraising activities. Eventually, I was invited to be part of the Speakers Bureau.
Speaking to groups of people about my experience is one of the most rewarding things I do. I have spoken to numerous NAMI groups, including Understanding Mental Illness and Family-to-Family classes. I also speak regularly to students, healthcare workers and law enforcement officers. There is nothing like the feeling of inspiring hope in someone who is living with or caring for someone with mental illness. Most of these people are only familiar with the crisis side of mental illness. It is such a blessing to see their eyes soften and smiles emerge as I share my story and demonstrate that recovery is possible.
Mental Illness is one of the most widespread yet least understood illnesses. I was 34 years old before I understood what was happening to me. I am one of the fortunate ones. The goal of NAMI Greater Cleveland is to ensure that all people affected by mental illness have the opportunity to experience recovery as I have.
Please consider making a gift to the 2014 Annual Fund. Very bluntly, we cannot do this by ourselves. We need the support of our community to further our mission of empowering persons affected by mental illness and their family members to achieve a better quality of life.
Thank you in advance for your consideration. Together, we can and we will make a difference.
Ben Seeley, NAMI Greater Cleveland Volunteer
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