Stories: Donna

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In 2010, Donna was hospitalized, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD. While she was there, the social worker told her about NAMI, and particularly recommended the Peer-to-Peer course. Donna’s therapist had also told her about NAMI, but the social worker at the hospital finally got Donna through NAMI’s doors.

The NAMI Resources Donna Has Used

Donna has called the Helpline when she needed guidance. She attended the Bipolar Support Group and NAMI Connection, a support group for anyone with mental illness. She also took Peer-to-Peer, a 12-week class for those living with mental illness. The course “helps you to prevent relapse and stay well,” because you learn how to manage symptoms and situations that might challenge you. She also appreciated the atmosphere. “Your peers are supportive,” she says. “They become really good friends.”

How Donna Gives Back to NAMI

Donna became a Peer-to-Peer mentor, teaching the course that helped her so much. She coaches others with mental illness in the same problem-solving skills that she learned. Donna is also an In Our Own Voice speaker. She goes to places like hospitals and colleges and talks about her experiences with mental illness, her diagnosis and recovery. She finds it all extremely rewarding. “If I can help one person,” she says, “what I’ve been through was not in vain.”

How NAMI Changed Donna’s Life

When asked if NAMI changed her life for the better, Donna’s face lit up. “Oh, it changed my life for the most better!” she exclaims. NAMI helped her stay out of the hospital. PTSD relapses can be triggered by events, but she has learned coping skills which help her manage her symptoms. And a support system like the one she has found at NAMI keeps her in touch with peers who are going through similar challenges.

What Makes NAMI Different from Other Services

“It seems like I was speaking a language all my life that no one understood,” Donna says. “When I went to NAMI, everyone understood. I felt totally accepted.” There’s no stigma at NAMI, she says. It’s a place where mental illness is just like diabetes and heart disease – a physical medical condition that needs treatment. NAMI, Donna says, helped her accept that. “It’s a disease, it’s not me,” she states. “I’m not weird or weak for taking medication.”

But NAMI does even more that. “NAMI not only supports you,” says Donna, “they educate you.” She learned about her illness here, and is helping others do the same. And she wants people to know about everything that NAMI offers. “Family members need support too!”

“If the public can support NAMI – whatever they can do,” Donna says, “let the word be out there that an organization like NAMI exists. Let people know they’re not alone.”