Cynthia found NAMI a few times, actually. Her first experience of NAMI was at the Park Avenue location. Her therapist had recommended it. She decided to try out the Living With Bipolar Support Group. Cynthia had been struggling with her diagnosis of Schizoaffective Bipolar Disorder, and she says that time was “a little scary” for her. She was just beginning to understand and accept her mental illness.
Eventually she stopped attending the support group, but she came back again in 2005. Again, it was her therapist who advised her to go back. This time, Cynthia was in the midst of a relapse. She had stopped taking her meds, and needed guidance. So she called the Helpline.
NAMI Services Cynthia Has Used
The turning point for Cynthia, she says, was the Helpline back in 2005. She was really struggling, and the person she spoke with on the Helpline (Annette – Cynthia still remembers her name) helped send her in the right direction. “You’re not gonna do that again, right Cynthia?” she had said, and that resonated with Cynthia. No, she wasn’t going to go off her medication again.
Shortly after, Cynthia took the Peer-to-Peer course. She felt like this helped her much as the Bipolar Support Group had years before. She learned about her illness and the illnesses of others, and it helped her accept what was happening to her.
How Cynthia Gives Back to NAMI
Cynthia is one of the most involved members and volunteers NAMI has ever had. Her therapist, who she has seen for over 20 years, first encouraged her to volunteer. She is a participant in the In Our Own Voice program, where she speaks at hospitals and colleges about her experiences with her mental illness. She now teaches Peer-to-Peer, and is even taking state training to learn how to train others to teach the course.
Cynthia also spends time in the NAMI office doing anything and everything she can. She is a state trainer for In Our Own Voice as well. And on top of it all, she even used to run NAMI’s monthly crocheting group.
How NAMI Is Different From Other Resources Cynthia Has Used
Cynthia was a member of a clubhouse in New York – a social organization that also helps with part-time employment and transitioning into the community – and it was good in the beginning. But, she says, “It wasn’t really the place for me.” She found that she was closer to the staff than to her peers. Her high level of functioning made participating in the clubhouse awkward. She needed to be in a place that was supportive of that level, and that place was NAMI.
How NAMI Has Changed Cynthia’s Life
If you ask Cynthia what NAMI means to her, her first answer is her huge smile. “When I came to NAMI in 2005,” she says, “I felt like, wow, thank you Lord, I’m at home. This is my family.” She says she found total acceptance here, of both her illness and herself. “I felt more hopeful than anything before,” she says of her welcome at NAMI. “It changed my life because it got me around people who understand me.”
She has also appreciates the opportunity to give back. “It’s given me a chance to advocate and help other people as well,” Cynthia says. “I always wanted to be involved with an organization that I could volunteer with and donate to. I knew NAMI was it.”
Cynthia has always liked the idea of a cocoon, because out of it came a butterfly. She always wanted to be free. “Now I can say – I’m free. I’m beautiful. I’m soaring up into the sky.” NAMI is her passion, her foundation, her support. And because of NAMI, she has come up with a very fitting catchphrase. “My name is not my diagnosis. My name is Cynthia.”