On the Road Again for NAMI: No Cougars Encountered

NAMI and I go way back. I don't even know when or how I heard of this organization, the nation's largest grass roots organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. But it has walked beside me for thirteen years now, as I have tried to build my own better life.

NAMI began in 1979, when some Wisconsin parents of people with schizophrenia pushed back against the prevailing theory of the day, that they had caused this terrible disease in their children. They aligned their new organization with the view that schizophrenia is an illness of the brain, and a commitment to support research into medical approaches to alleviate this and other mental illnesses.

NAMI provides advocacy, education, support and public awareness. My own life has been touched by NAMI through their Peer to Peer classes and support groups. My wife attended Family to Family classes. In the last ten years, these core programs have expanded to address other needs.

So most years, I have participated in their annual fund raiser, the NAMIWalk. For the first few years, I walked with NAMI Johnson County in Iowa City, with Team Prozac Monologues. It was a party affair, kicked off with balloons and Middle Eastern dancers and roller derby demonstrations. And t-shirts, always t-shirts.

This year we did it DIY. COVID cancelled the big events. We all walked our own routes.

My route was the Peterson Ridge Trail in Deschutes National Forest, south of Sisters, Oregon.

Some different scenery this year:

And some novel challenges:

But this was not the first DIY NAMIWalk for me. In 2012 we were in Costa Rica when the date came. Not to be deterred, heck - why don't we make a movie!

Seriously, in the days before IPhones, we carried a laptop to the beach!

Anyway, if you are inclined to support my fund-raising efforts this year, the pledge page is still active. Here it is. Many thanks to those who have already contributed, this year and in years past.

In 2009, the local NAMI chair asked me to participate in Mental Illness Awareness Week, a vigil remembering people who had died from their mental illness. On October 4th, I stood in front of a hundred people or so. I was struggling myself to survive when I said for the time, Hello, my name is Willa Goodfellow, and I have a mental illness.

That seems an age ago. An admission that seemed so daring then has become my brand. NAMI has been part of my getting to a much healthier place about acknowledging my reality.

I stated an intention that night. I am proud to say that I am fulfilling it. So I close this post the way I closed those remarks twelve years ago:

...To that end, I am going to live with this disease the way Don lived with his. Openly -- I have a mental illness. Actively -- I will answer ignorance with education. Politically-- I will meet discrimination with change. And in community -- I will support and be supported by others who share this illness with me, so that we can survive it together.

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