NAMI Family-to-Family: Lessons of Forgiveness
No one really noticed my mother’s symptoms, because she lived away from her family and my dad traveled a lot for work. One day, she asked me if I wanted to go to heaven with her and my brother. I said yes, if I could take my dolls along. So she went to the local hardware store and purchased a small revolver. When she shot us all with this gun and went into protective psychiatric care, then people started noticing her symptoms. She spent the rest of her life either inpatient or homeless until she died in a mental health ward. No one in our family ever talked about it. I only have a bullet in my back that was too close to my spine for the surgeon to remove to remind me of this tragic time. But other than that, I chose to forget.
I didn't think about mental health again for the next 30 years. Then one of my teenage sons started acting out and was diagnosed with ADHD. Another one of our teenagers started having mental health and substance abuse issues. My husband and I did not know what to do—our lives were torn apart. That is when I heard about a NAMI class that was offered at our church once a year. I called the instructor, and she spoke with me for 45 minutes about my situation and suggested I attend her 12 week NAMI Family-to-Family class at our church. There was no current class offering, so I found one at a nearby university to attend immediately. I would come home every week and tell my husband about all the great things I was learning. People in the class were having the same issues we were having, yet they seemed to be handling things better—I wanted the same success they had for my own family.
My husband and I both took the next class offering at our local church. After the first class, I decided I needed to learn more and wanted to train to be a Family-to-Family teacher with NAMI Dallas. That was in 2010. Since then, my co-teacher, Joey, and I have taught over 500 families over the past six years. We believe by proactively seeking good treatment and proper diagnosis, we help our loved ones recover quicker, and surround them with support and understanding. There is hope and help for those living with a mental health condition. The stigma and silence that surrounds mental health issues here in the U.S. must be shattered and the talking and recovering must begin.
Recovery in Our Sights
My husband and I credit what we have learned at NAMI for saving our marriage and family. We have peace and reconciliation with our family members. It is a beautiful thing. As we have educated ourselves and become better advocates, our sons have taken on their lives with renewed courage and strength, and increased insight into their mental health challenges. We feel God gave us NAMI right when we needed it.
It has been an amazing journey. I have testified in Austin, Texas before the Texas Legislature Floor on mental health care reform. I have gone on a local Dallas Fort Worth radio show to speak about NAMI and increase knowledge about depression around the holidays. And my husband and I have been interviewed by a CBS 11 journalist for a local television show on our own family experience and how family members in the community can help their loved ones for Mental Health Month.
Best of all: I have forgiven my mother for shooting me through the education I have received from NAMI. I now understand a small portion of the pain and agony she was in at the time of her mental break and during the course of her long, tragic life. I advocate in her honor. The bullet may still be there, but the bitter, silent misunderstanding has been removed.
To learn more about NAMI’s Family-to-Family class, please click here.
Debra Moore is a NAMI Family-to-Family teacher and Mental Health Grace Alliance Leader. She lives in the Dallas area with her husband and family and volunteers for her church. She is a lifetime Advocate for her loved ones and other families in the community.