Why I Walk for NAMI

I walk for the young man I met when I used to feed the homeless on Sundays outside the Blanchet House.

After several weeks of providing sack lunches, prayers and occasional hugs for those waiting for hot meals inside the Blanchet House, I spotted a face which seemed familiar, but somehow radically different than I had recalled from past weeks. I don’t recall his name, but he was in his early 20s. His clothes where still disheveled and his hair a mess, but his face had new marked clarity. His mouth no longer bore a crusty finish and his eyes sparkled clear where prior they seemed covered in a foggy film.

I was so taken aback by his appearance I had to speak with him to make sure he was indeed the fellow I had tried to engage the week before. As we began to visit, I discovered he had a mental disorder and had got off his “meds”, but through the help of someone he was back on his medications. In the previous weeks I couldn’t carry on any kind of conversation with him as he appeared to be lost in his own world.  During our visit I learned he used to work at Home Depot, but lost his job due to his condition. He had been on the streets living in and out of deplorable hotels for the past two years. He sadly relayed that being back on his medications had one bad effect. He was now keenly aware of the sad state of his life. He now went to sleep to the sounds of rats running in the walls and daily faced the fears of the plight he “awoke” to. To help me understand, he asked me to imagine I had gone to a party and gotten really drunk only to wake up in the gutter with no seeming way out. He said, “It’s a bit what it is like when I get back on my meds.”

As we parted that day, I encouraged him to have faith and to keep taking his medications. However, I knew if I was in his shoes I would most likely want to stop taking my medications, so I could escape the world I had reentered.

So in short I walk for all the people like the young man I met that day. No one should have to awake to a world so cold, un-caring, un-understanding, and un-helpful. We has individuals, people, communities, cities, states and a nation should and can do better.

NAMI is caring understanding and helpful. NAMI helps individuals, families, communities, states and our nation. NAMI can and is doing better.

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3 comments

  1. Tammy · July 4, 2011

    I think one of the things that I am concerned about in the current health care debate is that services will be eliminated for individuals like this. Mental illness is a horribly misunderstood condition and NAMI is a great organization to provide awareness and services for those affected by it.

  2. Kevin · July 9, 2011

    Wow, Chris. Powerful stuff. I knew you walked for NAMI, but I think you’ve opened a door here to provide me with more perspective on understanding you. I can’t express the extent of my gratitude for you being in my family, and my respect for you grows …

    • Chris Antrim · July 9, 2011

      Kevin, thank you for your kind words. Tonight I was a small part of a free service NAMI provides called “In Our Own Voice” during which individuals who are in recovery from mental illness share their life’s story with groups. This evenings event was held for eight soon to be school counselors as a portion of their master’s program and the third IOOV I have observed. Each time I hear others share their stories I get little better understanding of the confusion, complexity and gravity the effects of mental illness has upon society, families and individuals. Understanding is an essential step to start helping and what we all need to do a better job of in all aspects of our lives.

      I too am grateful for “our” family and the more I learn the more I admire the whole lot.

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