Fredi - NAMI-NYC

What brought you to NAMI-NYC?

My psychiatrist tried to get me to contact NAMI for ages. I finally called the Helpline, and it was recommended I take Peer-to-Peer. I absolutely loved it. In fact, I liked it so much, I took it again. I got so much out of it. It was so welcoming, such a good place to be. In my first class, there was a school principal, a teacher, someone who was homeless, a few college students…mental illness doesn’t discriminate. And then I decided to become a Peer-to-Peer mentor. It’s very important to me — it helps me stay centered.

I volunteered on the Helpline two days a week in 2013 and 2014. Now I’m an In Our Own Voice presenter, generally two times a month. I’m also the co-facilitator of the M.I.C.A. Support Group, for people with mental illness and addiction, and NAMI Connections 55+, for people ages 55+ with mental illness.

After many misdiagnoses in my youth, I now have a diagnosis for major depression and anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. My son died last year [2016], so it’s hard for me to tell what’s grief, and what’s the depression…

How did NAMI-NYC change your life?

I definitely think NAMI is a life changer. Everybody comes here for hope… And you can’t leave here without it! Yesterday was tough for me…I was feeling hopeless. But I had to give an In Our Own Voice presentation, and after I was done, I felt full of hope. Recharged. A part of the world again. And that’s all due to NAMI.

What’s different about NAMI?

I’ve never found another place with so many options. Amazing. And everything being led by peers makes it very different. Here, we’re all equal. It’s nice to be surrounded by people as challenged by mental illness as I am — nothing I say makes anyone blink.

It was a relief, not to feel alone in this. I had never been in a mental health environment where people were healthy enough, and had so much self-awareness. That’s the thing about NAMI — you have to be well enough mentally to get here.

What’s it like walking through the doors of NAMI?

Walking through the doors feels like coming home. Filled with familiar faces. I know I can just sit for awhile…it’s a great feeling. I feel comfortable here, and safe.