NAMI Provides Much-Needed Aid In Crisis

By KC … Sometimes, maybe all the time, the diagnosis of a mental illness can feel like your worst, most frightening nightmare. I found out that NAMI can help ease the after-effect of that tough-to-explain bad dream.

On a dark, mild, peaceful October night after visiting my family, I was driving home when I saw sparks shooting out of a pickup truck coming my way. The truck was zipping 60 mph in a 45-mph zone.  It swerved slightly and continued to spark like fireworks on the Fourth of July. I braced for a head-on collision, but luckily the truck stayed in its own lane. It had just driven past me when I said a prayer of thanks that the danger passed. I felt safe again. Then just that quickly, everything in front of me went black. Seemingly out of nowhere,  a wheel that came off the truck rolled up and pounded the front end of my car so hard that the airbag deployed.

Nothing rips you apart like your basic sense of security being taken. It reminded me of the feeling I had 12 Christmases ago when my dad told me my mom had started “hearing voices.”

News That Changes Everything

That news completely blindsided me. My mom would eventually need hospitalization because the voices and her emotions careened so out of control. The medical officials hospital called it an undiagnosable psychosis.

I battled feelings of shock, terror, helplessness, despondency, anger and anxiety. Nothing any of us did made mom better; sometimes it felt like we made things worse. She emotionally distanced herself from us over time. That hit me hard. My mom and I did everything together and talked about everything together. She was my best friend.

Medication helped my mom, and we got into a new groove as a family. It felt different and unfamiliar, but it worked, and we eventually got comfortable.

Then five years, later the bottom dropped out once again. Mom had a relapse and landed in the hospital, but this time they named her illness. The doctor told us she had late-onset schizophrenia. Crushed and confused by this diagnosis, I rummaged through every piece of literature the hospital sent home until I found NAMI — the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

NAMI Provides Support

The wealth of knowledge and support that came from the NAMI Family-to-Family program proved stunning. While it offered no magic cures or solutions, I unexpectedly found myself in a roomful of people who understood my situation. Just like me, they all felt fearful, frustrated, isolated, inadequate, bewildered, not to mention that same blind-sided sense I had experienced. We learned these feelings pose normal reactions to having a safe and secure future obliterated. We also learned that coping and hoping are the two most important keys to survival when a loved one’s diagnosis sucker-punches a family member.

NAMI resembles the caring and comforting strangers who stopped and helped me after my car accident.  NAMI gave me a map that showed how to navigate the rough roads of mental illness.

This life with mental illness carries plenty of turbulent twists and turns. NAMI helped prepare my heart to handle them better than I could have on my own.

(KC has requested that her blogging remain anonymous. You can send comments to meisenbath@gmail.com and they will be passed along to KC.)