Ack! It feels as though I've been away from blogging for months, even though it's been less than a week. My days are so busy that a day feels like a week and a week feels like a month! This past weekend was no exception as I attended training for NAMI's In Our Own Voice program. The program was intense, but I am very glad I went. There were about fourteen people there and we spent time writing our speeches about our diagnosis, our treatment, acceptance, coping skills, and our hopes and dreams. Then we practiced saying them in front of everybody. This is to prepare us for when we go out to different organizations later to tell our stories and to try to break the stigma that surrounds mental illness. It was very inspirational to hear the stories of people who have had really hard times and yet have survived them all and have gone on to achieve some really awesome things. The atmosphere was exciting and energetic and I am pumped to get to work dispelling the stigma.
After the training, three things occurred to me:
1) My cynicism is fading. - Depression made me quite cynical for a long time, although I called myself a realist. I used to be always quick to think of the negative side of every situation and I used to think very negatively about NAMI, because of a few unfortunate incidents. Something changed for me at the training, though. I came to realize that here is an organization that is doing its best at making the world a better place. Of course, no entity is perfect, but it was just so clear to me that this organization is really trying. Soon my negativity was replaced with admiration. I still claim to be a realist, but I can now see the optimist's silver lining too.
2) If you trust long enough, life will work itself out. - Trusting is hard, especially when one is depressed or anxious, but life seems to be working out, at least for now. I worked with my minister all summer, getting ready to design an artistic program where I would speak out against mental health stigma. Reading the theology and writing the papers she assigned really helped me think about some big questions and opened my mind to new ways of thinking. In the end, I never wrote my one-womyn show, because NAMI supplied it for me. I was beginning to think I would never get around to writing what I needed to write, but then an event came along where I did just that. I feel like a huge burden has been lifted. Life is working itself out in several other ways too. You see, I am going to take classes on how to write grants, so that I can get a better paying job hopefully in about a year. The job I currently have lasts about a year, so this is perfect. I really do not think that I would be able to pursue a full-time job, go to all my groups, and try to build up my own business, nor do I think I would be able to support myself just doing my show either. My hope is that I will get a job at a company writing grants in about a year and that I will do my In My Own Voice presentation on the side. I think this is doable and I am excited.
3) I am an activist! - I have always wanted to be able to claim activism for myself, but I never thought I could, because I have never marched in a big protest. This is a great fallacy! One does not have to march in a big demonstration in order to call oneself an activist. That is a type of activism, but there are other types too. There is also the type of person who in conversations constantly challenges others to think in new ways. I have tried to do that with my blog. I have tried to bring issues to light that I think are important. What I have come to realize is that my calling is mainly to challenge the main modes of thought regarding disability and In My Own Voice definitely help do that. There are not many people who advocate for those with disabilities and I am proud to do what I can to help dispel stigma and promote justice.
I am so glad to read about another consumer involved with NAMI and advocating on behalf of people who live with mental illnesses. (I just wrote a post about what I'm doing with NAMI on my blog a few hours ago, before reading yours).
I take great joy in being an activist, too! It is the primary way I define myself. Though I have marched in numerous protests, you're right, one does not have to do that to be an activist. Activism is about creating change, and it sounds like you are doing that in many ways in your life. I think the one-woman show idea sounds interesting and would love to hear more about that. I'm also involved in NAMI here in Florida, but haven't done In Our Own Voice yet myself, though I would like to. I speak to police officers in C.I.T. training, however, and it is similar in that I tell my story to create awareness. It is a very rewarding experience. I'm so glad to find your blog, because we have much in common (I'm also a feminist). I will definitely be checking back here in the future. Keep writing!
"I am an activist. It pays the rent for living on this planet."