I began the very first Mindfulness column with the idea that mental illnesses can be harder to deal with than cancer, because with cancer you either beat the disease and go into remission or else succumb. Unlike mental illnesses, cancer is accepted and understood in our society. Mental illnesses are hard to deal with because there is no one medication that takes away symptoms, no solution that solves the lifelong ramifications that a mental illness has on an individual, a family and a society. Even in the realms of recovery of a mental illness, there are still medicines to take and a support system that still has to be maintained. With a mental illness, the act of "recovering" is a form of remission where the patient is able to handle the symptoms to a point where the goal designated by some books is a mental health patient living a "fulfilling life."
For myself, in the beginning I thought a fulfilling life was not having hallucinations, remembering to take my meds, and being able to cope with my other symptoms. Learning to constantly adjust and tweak my recovery has led me to where I am now. I am able, fortunately, to handle the remaining symptoms that medicine does not take away and have built a very large support system. I have taken the steps to further my education and am working on finishing my bachelor's degree, and want to pursue my dreams of being a freelance writer.
I have had the great privilege of being able to interview other patients with mental illnesses and tell their stories in this Mindfulness column. From some of these others stories, I have learned that no matter the illness, we are all trying to live a fulfilling life. I have also told my stories of recovery from the experience I have been through. It has come time for me as a person to step away from the Mindfulness column and to pursue other writing adventures. I would like to take the time to thank the Cortez Journal for opening this discussion on mental illnesses in our community.
For every person who has come up to me and talked to me about the illness they or someone they know is going through, I would like to thank you for being so open and willing to share your stories and struggles. I will always hold dear the lady in the park that came up to me one day when I was walking and told me how a recent Mindfulness article encouraged her to seek help. I hope these articles have started a change in how we perceive mental illnesses. Although it will be a large battle to face, I believe that we will someday come to medically beat the symptoms and learn to tackle the stigma of mental illnesses. As with cancer, may we come to a point where mental illnesses are accepted for the fact that they are illnesses that need to be addressed?
To borrow an illustration from my favorite hobby of fly fishing, facing a mental illness is much like pursuing that elusive large fish in the river. You can keep on casting and getting your line all knotted up in the pursuit of what you desire. With each cast and try you come a little closer. However, recovery, I have come to learn, is not so much the act of catching that fish, it is the idea that you take the risk to wade through your problems, pursue your goal and. most importantly, that you enjoy the adventure of the day.
Mindfulness is brought to you by NAMI Montelores, your local NAMI affiliate. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI recognizes that the key concepts of recovery, resiliency and support are essential to improving the wellness and quality of life of all persons affected by mental illness. NAMI provides support, education, and advocacy for individuals and families through community classes, in-service trainings, support groups, and more.
Randy Davis is a member of NAMI Montelores. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.