I am so fond of John McManamy, and reading his recent SharePost on his experience at the DBSA National Conference brought back those five days for me. (It was a three-day conference, but five for me because of a board meeting and leadership conference.)
One of the things I love, and sometimes fear, is the amazing depth and breadth of people and their stories that I experience while at the conference. I love it because it's so inspiring. I fear it because it exhausts me. I really have to work hard on my wellness at those events.
Here are some of the people I met:
Greg Louganis, Olympic athlete and his little dog, Adios. Greg has the most amazing recovery story. What a great man and a truly human and humane gentleman.
Catie, who has side effects that would make most of us just give up and quit but who just shines through with humor and encouragement. I sent her pictures of my dog Cassie. (Do you sense a theme here?)
Sharon, who told me stories of being kicked out of her nursing program because of her diagnosis but who is turning it into a positive experience by working on stigma-busting and peer support in her community.
Paul, who told me devastating tales of his homelessness and forced confinement to a nursing home because of his illness and who is slowly moving out of the pain and bitterness, forward into recovery.
There are just so many people that come to mind. I cycle through their faces at night and hold each in my heart for a moment.
We all have amazing recovery stories. Sometimes I feel like mine is just boring-I wasn't homeless ... I never won an Olympic medal. But it's my story, and it may be the one that helps someone else out there who also hasn't won a gold medal. I am reminded of what Ike Powell, the wise man who created the certified peer specialist curriculum used across the country, has said about recovery stories-the key is to make it a recovery story, NOT an illness story. Even if I'm in the middle of my worst time, I can create a recovery story to talk about where I am going as I stubbornly push against the pain. An illness story keeps me in the middle of my pain ... a recovery story moves me forward.
According to researchers, the only thing that seems to put a dent in the stigma attached to our illnesses is NOT education ... NOT shame and blame ... but instead, putting a real face on the illness. Help DBSA show the real face of bipolar and depression...Yours! Through our new "Facing Us" campaign, we're holding three contests to gather videos, art and PSAs to put a face on mood disorders and eliminate stigma. Take a look at the promotional videos already submitted.
Make a video using your personal video camera or even your cell phone, submit your artwork or just keep watching the "Facing Us" site. The video and artwork contests are just one step toward a new, very exciting consumer site that will have things like e-cards, online journals and wellness books, recovery tips and lots more to share. It will launch on November 15. Until then, the contests are on! (Check them out-there are cash prizes for the winning entries.) I encourage you to submit an entry. You don't have to be a professional videographer or artist. If you are a professional, be sure to check out the PSA contest.
At this year's conference, I could've captured hundreds of stories that would make your heart sing. (Next time, I'm taking a camera with me!) But I bet the stories we'll start seeing on the Facing Us website will end up being an orchestra of hope.
Published On: August 29, 2007
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