For the past two-plus years, I have been the communications director for NAMI Greater Corpus Christi, and I have loved every minute. This organization has helped in my recovery so much that I now associate the two. You won’t find a more loving, judgement-free group of people in the world. We refer to our tight-knit group as the NAM FAM. We’re even presenting at a NAMI conference about how our NAM FAM works and helps us give others support and education.
When I was first approached about the communications position, I was a bit wary, but it wasn’t a paid position so I didn’t feel suffocated by the job. For some reason I didn’t feel like I was beholden to something if I weren’t paid. My therapist tells me that’s wrong, though. I’ve never held a job down for more than two years, maybe three, because something was always at play — severe migraines or my depression, anxiety, eating disorder, etc. I missed work. I felt guilty and unworthy.
But at NAMI is different. I don’t mind doing the work. I show up when I can, and I always try to do my best. At one point, I thought I might take the affiliate over in about five years or so should the opportunity present itself. I guess I imagined I would have all my stuff together then, but let’s face it — I might never have it together. But the idea of “5-year Heather” meant that I would be more responsible, consistent, mature, hard working and so on.
But as it turns out, five years has now turned into now.
My close friend, the affiliate leader and program director is stepping down because her husband got a new job, and they’re relocating. I’m heartbroken of course that I will no longer have my fearless leader and good friend, but I’m really happy for them because it seems like a good move.
Naturally, because I had mentioned taking over in the future, it made me the top candidate for the job.
But I’m not “5-year Heather yet!” I thought. I have chronic illnesses and two young children, all of which take up my time. A lot. And surely they’ve noticed that I’m not a Certified Adult yet.
Taking the position (I have to be voted in by the Leadership Team first) would mean that I HAVE to be more responsible. NAMI GCC’s volunteers will be looking to me to make sound decisions about the organization and represent it well in the public. I will have to show up, which is something I’ve never been good at, honestly. I’ll have to be a Certified Adult (does anyone know the process on this?).
As I ponder these new responsibilities, I’m reminded that this was something I asked for. Something I wanted to do.
When I was going through the worst depressive episode in my life, I felt alone. Nobody talked about the cruel and debilitating realities. My friends and family didn’t know what they knew then — they couldn’t have helped me even if I did tell them what I was facing. I spent each day hoping I wouldn’t succumb to the persistent voice in my head telling me to kill myself. I hated life, and I hated who I had become. That was before I received help at a psych hospital.
My husband always says that if you have the ability to help others then it becomes your obligation to do so. That’s what I want to do. I want to let others know that they are not alone, that recovery is possible, that the dark doesn’t last. I want NAMI GCC to be the top mental health organization that other agencies and community members think of.
I want to help in anyway I can. And I see now that desire is stronger than being inconsistent or immature.
I will be so humbled and grateful to the Leadership Team should they appoint me affiliate leader. I hope it is my calling, and that our small, but mighty, organization thrives. It assures me that our team of volunteers is the best of the best, and I want to reflect that.
Am I scared? Yes, but I know what it’s like to be brave even when the odds were stacked against me. I’ll tell myself what I tell my kids: You can hard things.
Sometimes the most difficult thing is to just jump in.
So it looks like I’m taking the plunge.
Update: Saturday, Aug. 26: The Leadership Team voted me in as affiliate leader, effective Sept 15.