During the 2019 Indy Give! campaign, we're highlighting some of the ways that NAMI Colorado Springs connects with the community. One of the most profound connections comes when someone living with mental illness chooses to share his or her story.
Laura Teachout (pictured below with her dog, Peat Moss) is a Connection Support Group facilitator, In Our Own Voice presenter and NAMI Colorado Springs board member. She also serves on Colorado's Behavioral Health Task Force, assigned by Gov. Jared Polis to assess and recommend improvements to the state's mental health system.
Here's a look at something she wrote to NAMI's email list to help out with Give! fundraising. If you're reading this before Jan. 1 and you're moved to donate, you can still give through Give!. You can also give anytime within our "Donate" section.
I live with mental illness.
Being a part of the NAMI Colorado Springs family has made my life immeasurably better.
Here’s the really tough stuff: I’ve lived with PTSD and treatment-resistant depression for more than 25 years. At its worst, it leaves me feeling empty and devoid of hope. It hurts to remember joy and then feel its stark absence in my life. No matter how I fill my time or how many lovely friends are in my life, there's an empty space at my center.
And talking about my mental illness takes a huge leap of faith. I’m never sure I'll be heard, accepted or respected for having lived so long with this monster of an illness. It can’t matter that I might be judged or pitied or turned into something less than a whole person.
And here’s where NAMI brings hope and the promise of better days: NAMI creates a space where I can connect with people who are like me, whose struggles mirror my own, and who’ve held me up when I’ve been at my lowest. Every time I sit in on or facilitate a Connection Support Group, I am reminded that mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Our differences in age and gender and education and wealth disappear for those few hours, and a profound connection occurs. Compassion grows and the hopelessness eases. Acceptance, belonging, love and laughter happen. That’s a BIG deal and it’s what NAMI does best.
Since joining the NAMI Colorado Springs Board two years ago, I’ve found my voice as an advocate for those of us living with mental illness and for our families and friends. Here I am, writing openly and comfortably about my illness. I trust that, because you are a supporter of NAMI, you are also committed to breaking down the barriers and fighting the stigma of mental illness. Because of my NAMI experience, I am fearless in sharing my story to help others share theirs.
At some point in the day — every day — I give a silent thanks to NAMI for making these powerful connections possible and for helping me find my voice.
Oh, yeah: I almost forgot to say that living with my sweet old dog is kind of like having a perpetual Connection group in my life. He wraps around and warms that empty space at my center. He reminds me that I'm not alone.