Not long before we were married, Janie promised me one thing: “You will never be bored.” And that is one promise that she has most certainly kept!
“She is a symbol of recovery, and therefore of hope, to the thousands of people she has spoken to over the past decade.
My involvement with Janie over these past dozen years or so has been intimately intertwined with my involvement in NAMI. Well before I realized that this was the person I was going to love for the rest of my life, I realized that I would have to fully embrace her mental illness. As such, I would have to make her extensive involvement with NAMI my own. As both a resource for recovery and as an outlet for her boundless creativity in advocacy, NAMI has served her exceptionally well.
Life with Janie has, for the most part, been a pleasure. No one brings more enthusiasm and joy for life to the table than Janie. Her energy and personality can light up rooms large and small. She is the very embodiment of the idea that one can overcome anything. She is a symbol of recovery, and therefore of hope, to the thousands of people she has spoken to over the past decade. There have been darker periods, of course, of deep depression and the rare bout of mania, but even in the depths of despair she has exhibited courage and resiliency. Her family and loved ones are all deeply proud of her.
NAMI has served me well as a family member, too. One of the transformative experiences of my life was the opportunity to train in and teach NAMI's Family-to-Family course on three separate occasions. Each time I not only taught, but learned as well. NAMI’s Family-to-Family has increased my empathy for Janie during those times when she hasn't been doing well and has given me the tools I need to take care of both her and myself.
My training in Family-to-Family also informs much of my college teaching as well. Every semester at the local technical college, I take on about 120 incoming freshmen in my freshman seminar classes, teaching them a wide variety of skills both for surviving college and for thriving at life in general. Aware that my students are a prime demographic for experiencing first onset symptoms of major mental illness and that a substantial portion of them have already been affected, I make a point of teaching the fundamentals of mental health. I also invite NAMI In Our Own Voice presenters to each of my classes, who provide the students with exposure to some of NAMI's core messages, first among them being “recovery is possible.” I feel that this message will pay dividends in the lives of my students and society as a whole.
I was promised a life free of boredom, if not entirely free of occasional worry. It has indeed been an adventure, one that I look forward to continuing, hand in hand with my Janie, for the rest of our lives together. I wish we could all be so lucky.
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