Stories: Tanisha

Back to NAMI-NYC Changes Lives

Tanisha Malcom

What brought you to NAMI-NYC?

I had been managing my mental health on my own without a support system for almost 15 years. It was becoming unbearable. I desired a community and was looking for a culturally-specific space, being that I hadn’t met anyone who looked like me with my mental health diagnosis. I had researched NAMI for years, but never walked through the doors. When I finally took the step to attend the Living With Bipolar Support Group, it was the best decision I have ever made in my recovery journey. It literally saved my life.

What NAMI-NYC programs have you used? What did you gain from the program/service you received?

My favorite program is the Black Minds Matter Support Group. The group that I have been searching for has finally been launched at NAMI-NYC. Overjoyed is an understatement! A part of my mental health advocacy is to break the stigma and be a part of and provide a safe space for my people to be vulnerable and share their walk. We are a special group who are steeped in cultural norms and values that historically have challenged the very existence of Mental Illness. The group launched in May 2020 and the participants mutually agree that they always feel better once we end.

I attend the Living With Bipolar Support Group. This was my first experience ever in a group setting, being vulnerable and sharing with complete strangers. This group really showed me how impactful and relevant NAMI has been in people’s lives. There are participants that have been in this group for years and add so much value and wisdom. This is what I was looking for. Support and community.

I also began attending the Creative Writing Support Group shortly after. Writing is one of my first loves and I have been writing what could be a solo show or a book about living with Bipolar for over 10 years. The space is so liberating and it is such a good vibe to share with fellow participants and hear their pieces.

I am also currently in NAMI Peer-to-Peer, which has been very helpful with learning more about Mental Health as well as new methods that I can utilize to manage my self care.

Why did you become a volunteer/teacher/leader?

Through the years I have been a resource to my family and friends regarding prospective mental health issues. I came to the realization that if I consider myself to be a Mental Health Advocate, I had to really embody it and utilize my journey to empower others. I just completed the NAMI Connection Recovery Education Program and am a Facilitator for the Black Minds Matter Support Group.

What do you find rewarding about the experience of leading a class/group/program?

It has been such a positive and proactive experience so far. What I enjoy is how I have learned to utilize certain processes in order to steer the meeting where the Group really empowers each other through Wisdom. As a Facilitator, we are not Therapist, therefore, with the participants being different ages and at different stages in their lives living with a mental health diagnosis, it is amazing to see how everyone leans on each other and provides support, information, and a real camaraderie. Specifically, in the Black Minds Matter Group, where the sense of community is vital due to the stigma in the Black community. I feel like I am on the road to being a change agent for the culture in the mental health space and NAMI has provided me with this opportunity to do good work.

How has your life been changed by NAMI-NYC programs?

NAMI-NYC saved my life. I was in a bad place prior to attending my first Bipolar Support Group. I could no longer carry the load by myself. I was bursting at the seams and saw myself going into a dark place that was familiar. Making that decision to go to the group and sharing with complete strangers was a huge step for me, but after a couple of group sessions, I found a place where I could be vulnerable around my peers. The Creative Writing Support Group lit the fire under me to begin to take my writing seriously again and how important writing has been in my life since childhood. Black Minds Matter is the group that I have been searching for all of this time and now it is here! I am grateful.

COVID has been difficult for everyone. How has NAMI-NYC affected your life since COVID?

I was very concerned about the status of my groups, specifically the Bipolar Support Group. I think NAMI-NYC did a tremendous job of taking fast action in getting as many support groups virtually accessible as possible. I am beyond grateful. It has been a major pillar in my life and not sure if I would be holding up as well without it.

How have you seen lives changed in the people in your groups/classes? Before and since COVID.

The anxiety level for everyone has skyrocketed. Like the walls are closing in. Just having to make adjustments to life overall has been difficult for many. Some have lost employment, some are fearful to leave their homes, this has been a very triggering time for many. On the other hand, some have used the time to delve into projects or reassess their life goals. It’s in times of adversity that can really test the mind, body, and spirit.

Do you see yourself in any of the lives of the people you interact with in your volunteer role?

As an empath, I can see myself in everyone that I have communicated with at NAMI-NYC. In my volunteer role, especially. We all share a special connection. An extra stripe per se. We are walking a tightrope the width of a spider web on a daily basis, so to muster up the strength and fortitude to show up in our lives everyday and to group, is a win. We need that sense of being heard. Or if you just want to come on to listen, you are still there. You never know what someone will say that will help or even save someone. It’s deep and life is so fragile, NAMI-NYC is really out here saving and changing lives. I have found a home for life!

Back to NAMI-NYC Changes Lives