Mental illness – a tyrant that knows no bounds
Mental illness affects all walks of life. It does not matter is you are young or old, black or white, gay or straight, educated or uneducated, rich or poor. It will not be pushed to the side because you have other plans and dreams. If ignored, it will only tighten its grip. Mental illness is stubborn — it doesn’t go away when acknowledged. It is treatable, yet not curable. It becomes a part of your existence. It became part of my existence.
In 2000, I finished my seven-year commitment to the U.S. Army, where I served as a combat engineer. I was working a full-time job, the proud father of three beautiful children, involved in my faith, an active volunteer and pursuing a dual master’s degree. I was living a full and rich life – a life that mental illness was about to invade.
I experienced my first psychotic episode in 2004. I was not sleeping, I was hearing voices, and I knew something was terribly wrong. It took some time and frightening, isolating moments to understand that I was being consumed by mental illness and my life was no longer my own. I lost my job, my home, my car – and I was in danger of losing my family. Mental illness is an unrelenting tyrant that never gives you rest.
I worked hard for years to achieve my educational goals – but I learned that would not shield or make me immune to a mental illness diagnosis. This was not supposed to happen to me. This happens to other people, I thought. Mental illness became my worst nightmare, threatening all of my dreams.
More than a decade after my first mental illness crisis, it seems that mental illness is still the elephant in the room for so many. In order for others to find healing, we must begin the conversation. It took me years to discover that education, treatment, and support are the key to recovery. These answers will not found in the shadows beneath a shroud of silence. We must have an open dialogue about mental illness and the importance of affordable, accessible treatment.
It is highly likely that someone you know is affected by mental illness. Mental illness affects one-in four-Americans every year. We need to have the same frank discussions about mental illness that we have regarding other health issues, such as diabetes and cancer. We cannot afford to ignore the issue.
I know recovery is possible because I was lucky enough to find my support network, which was a guiding light in the darkness. My family’s insistence and a doctor’s persistence started me on the path to recovery.
I feel very fortunate to work as an Adult Peer Support Specialist at Seven Counties Services and to serve as a board member for the Louisville affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). In my roles, I share my darkest and my brightest hours and hope others learn from my journey.
Mental illness can happen to a spouse, mother, brother, sibling, friend or colleague. It can happen to you. Please join NAMI Louisville on Saturday, August 12 at Waterfront Park for the Step Forward for Mental Health Walk and show support for those affected by mental illness. Our mission is eliminating the stigma of mental illness and helping those affected understand they are not alone in their journey. All proceeds from the Walk benefit NAMI’s programs and services throughout the community.
Dante Murry is a Kentucky Peer Support Specialist and a Kentucky Family Peer Support Specialist at Centerstone and the NAMI Louisville Vice President. Find out more about NAMI and its services www.namilouisville.org or call 502-588-2008.