In 2005, my son was hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 24. When our doctor gave us the diagnosis, he told us that he wished our son had a terminal illness instead. He said that would be far easier to live with than what we would be “dealing with” for the rest of our lives.
In the weeks and months that followed, our son went through the predictable course of denial, lack of compliance with his treatment plan and eventual relapse that most people go through with schizophrenia. To say that the three of us weren’t “dealing with” our son’s diagnosis well is an understatement.
Then, a loving friend shared a newspaper article with us about an upcoming NAMI Family-to-Family class that was being offered at a local NAMI affiliate. My husband and I made plans to attend the 12-week course. At such a low point in our lives, the class was just what we needed. It was such a relief to hear that recovery is possible. That if you keep hope alive, things do get better. For the first time, I began to hope for a better life for my family. The class gave us the tools and understanding we needed to get ourselves moving forward, together, stronger.
During the last class of the program, one of the instructors briefly talked about NAMIWalks and how they were one of the reasons NAMI could afford to provide free programs to the community. I made a mental note to find out when and where the next walk would take place. But as the weeks passed, life got busy (as it does) with conflicting work schedules and the daily challenges of our son’s illness, and I forgot.
Several months later, serendipitously, I saw a tv ad for NAMIWalks—a walk would be taking place the following week. I told family and friends about my plans to attend. With their help, I raised $500 in five days. It was a thrill to show up the morning of the walk, turning in the money I raised. I remember thinking that before my family needed NAMI, someone else took the time to walk and donate. Now it was my turn to raise money and walk for other families that unknowingly needed NAMI’s support.
My first NAMIWalks was a pivotal event in my life. It gave me renewed hope I hadn’t felt since taking the NAMI Family-to-Family course. And it fueled my desire to give back and begin advocating for mental health and NAMI.
Since that walk, I have become a NAMI Family-to-Family teacher. I serve on the state board for NAMI New Mexico. I have been a volunteer with NAMIWalks for the last 11 years, two of those as a walk manager. My NAMIWalks team, Footsteps4RFamilies, consists of family, friends, coworkers and many of the NAMI Family-to-Family participants I have taught over the years. To date, my team has raised over $110,000 for NAMIWalks.
It has been almost 13 years since my son’s first hospitalization and diagnosis. Since then, he has experienced many ups-and-downs. We make the most of the times when he feels well, and keep our hope alive to get through the rough patches. We continue to move forward as a family because of the valuable education we received from NAMI.
I am full of pride that our son will attend community college this fall. It is an exciting time for our family now that he feels well enough to take this step forward. I will always be thankful for finding NAMI Family-to-Family and NAMIWalks. I cannot imagine what our lives would have been like without them.
NAMIWalks are happening across the country. Find an upcoming walk and get involved today.
Cindy Kurey has lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for 22 years. She and her husband have been married for 40 years, have lived overseas and have moved a dozen or so times with the United States Air Force. Currently she and her husband own a small business. They have two sons and a beautiful daughter-in-law. When she isn’t volunteering for NAMI, Cindy can be found in her sewing room, what she calls the happiest place on earth, creating beautiful quilts, many of which become donations for local nonprofit organizations. Her heart is full of thanks to God for all that has happened so far and all that is yet to be in her life.