Stories: Ashley

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How Ashley Got Involved in NAMI

Ashley started at NAMI by volunteering in the office. She was looking for a way to fill up her time, and thought that some reception work would be relaxing and easy. She was at a point in her life where she didn’t have anything going on, she says. She wasn’t ready for a big commitment. But she wasn’t here for long before that changed.

At 16, the misdiagnoses started. She was in and out of treatment until she moved to the city when she was 18. She was supposed to attend the New School, for music – Ashley is a talented musician – but she was diagnosed almost right away with bipolar disorder, PTSD, and ADD. Suddenly, those previous years of her life made sense. “Looking back, even as a kid I think I had bipolar,” she says.

She got involved with NAMI when she was doing well. She needed a support system, yes, but more than that she needed something to do. Turns out, she also needed a purpose, a point. As she puts it, “In Our Own Voice is the point.”

How Ashley Gives Back to NAMI

Ashley sees two different purposes in In Our Own Voice. First, she helps other people know they’re not alone, and she helps educate people on mental illness. But it’s also for herself, to show that there was a point to all the things she’s been through. She didn’t want her experiences to just account for a decade of her life gone. She wanted them to actually help other people understand their own experiences.

“I was never really somebody who thought, ‘Why me?’” Ashley says. “I thought a lot about, ‘What’s the point of this? What is it good for?’” And now, every month, Ashley shares her story with people who are asking those same questions, but don’t have the answers yet.

How NAMI Has Changed Ashley’s Life

Ashley says that while her battle through her mental illness was awful, and while she wouldn’t want to go through it again, there were some positive things that came of it. In Our Own Voice is one of those positive things. “It kind of holds me accountable, in a way,” she says of the program. “It makes me want to continue to do well.”

Ashley joined NAMI’s ranks just about a year ago, but she doesn’t see herself leaving anytime soon. “It’s an amazing reminder of how far I’ve come,” she says proudly.

She gave a presentation recently at a hospital where she spent some time once. She looked out a window on the ward, and she remembered looking out that same window as a patient. “There’s nothing that can remind you of how far you’ve come more than that.”

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