A Big Step Forward

May 9, 2014

Today I took a big step forward. I told our story in public.

Our local NAMI organization hosted a Crisis Intervention Team training for police officers. It was a one week course designed to prepare them for mental health crises. I was asked to give a fifteen minute talk during the Family Perspective portion of the program. 

There were about forty people crammed in the stuffy room where I was scheduled to speak right after lunch. I was sure that my audience would be ready for a nap, not ready to witness an emotional mother blubber on about her bipolar son in prison. 

But I was wrong. They were ready and willing to listen to me and for that I am grateful.

It wasn't easy. I am a teacher so I can talk to a thousand twelve year olds without a problem, but put me in a room with forty grown ups, that's another story! My voice quivered as I began to speak. My tremor kicked in and my hands began to shake. I had to steady my papers on a nearby projector cart. I probably looked and sounded like I was falling apart...

But I made it through and I think I may have had an impact. Or at least I hope I did. Afterwards several people came up to thank me for sharing such a personal story, and they asked lots of questions. Many of them also shared their own personal mental health stories with me. One gentleman told me that he lost his fifteen year old daughter to suicide, calling it "the S word." He thanked me for talking about it because it's so rarely discussed in public. He reminded me that I still have a chance to reach my son and that I should be grateful. Talk about powerful. That really got me. Lump. In. Throat.

So what I did today was important, even if is was emotionally exhausting. 

One thing I said was, "Though my efforts ultimately weren't enough to keep my son from going to prison, I hope that by talking to you here today I may make a difference for someone else's child before it's too late for them."

And if I do make a difference for someone's child some day, even just one, then I've begun to turn this tragic chapter of our lives into something more positive. That's definitely one big step forward.

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