Journeyman's Row
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One year ago today

Posted on October 11, 2017 at 1:15 AM

Wow...


I know I often shy away from references of looking forward in time, but at least this past year has been a step towards a positive direction that I could not conceive of at this time last year. Believe me; the alternative to all of this volunteering would not have had me end up in nearly as positive place at all... So, I am not out of the woods yet.


The largest gains have been with exploring and expanding upon my community service volunteer ambitions stemming from volunteering on behalf of Penn State from 2008 through until 2015. Now, I have been able to discover and make goals of reaching out to people and have made progress towards achieving those ends. I served on the NAMI PA Blair County 2016 Recovery Conference Planning committee by which my suggestion for the theme "Find Your Voice" was chosen as well. I would like to make a special mention of fellow co-volunteers Ken Dean, of the Department of Social Services, for his truly inspiring contributions as well as wonderful personality to volunteer with and Crystal Walton for being an inspiring person to look up to for strength and courage. My kindest thanks especially to the committee members for being such a warmly welcoming group of people not only to consider my suggestions for the conference but accepting me into your volunteer groups as well.


The "Find Your Voice" Conference was also the very first time I realized just how I have been able to make it this far with my mental health being stigmatized as much as it was for over twenty years. For years I had anxiously been afraid of figuring out how I was able to persist thinking that I would unravel if I discovered the how and why. Now I know why: (Informal) Mindfulness. I owe this discovery to the local Department of Veterans Affairs crew who gave a most enlightening presentation at the conference. I also owe a debt of gratitude to keynote speaker Elisha Coffey, of Mental Health Partnerships.


She was the first to seek me out both to get a take on my mental health experiences but also to know more about my website endeavors. I truly felt like a celebrity in a way that conveyed a lasting measure of importance amongst millions with mental health issues. Thank you so much, Elisha. I may yet need to thank you further for your referral to People First creator and editor, Susan Rogers. Even though the state budget still remains at an impasse holding up the opportunity to write for your publication, just being considered for such a meaningful chance to reach out to people is still something I appreciate for what it is worth. Thank you and I hope to have the opportunity to write for you in the future.


In May I also made my first ever (and definitely not my last) public presentation about my mental health experiences as a Presenter at our local May Is Mental Health Month Conference. Although the attendance left me desiring more, the experiences and people I met at this event plus to tell my story for the first time will always be a milestone close to my heart. The mother and son, whom had similar diagnoses and experiences as I had but have not been in contact with them since then, gave me hope that a parent could be supportive of these kinds of issues. A fellow co-volunteer approached me after one of the presentation segments and gave me a personal boost of positive encouragement that I am not often able to find from someone of similar age to me. It may have only been a sentence or two of a connection that she offered to me, but I thank you just the same.


I also had a lovely elderly woman approach me after my first presentation who thanked me so kindly for what I had so say. I felt that she also appreciated my take on finding the old fashioned true love kind of companionship that the best marriages used to create the kinds of elderly couples one might see walking together and holding hands so firmly. I had never expected to connect with someone that much older than me, but make no mistake every connection with another person has been near and dear to my heart. Although my mother could not make it to attend, I do have to tip my hat to my father for attending the presentation as well. It is not easy for a parent unaccustomed to dealing with mental health issues to adjust, but at least he took the time and effort to be there for me. Thank you as well.


At the end of June, I managed to finish the rough draft of my fiction manuscript tentatively entitled, "Just Before the Dawn" Volume One. Although it lacks monologue and dialogue, the efforts I expended to create the six mental health themed short stories should in the near future if published really warm the hearts of many people. I just need to figure out what to do about lacking those two essential elements as I have not the skills or remaining temperament to push my writing skills much further. Despite this concerning setback, I intend to pursue getting it published with all my heart as well as plans for a Volume Two in the future. Along with this has been the concept for a single fiction story, entitled "Grace", which I also hope to write and publish somehow too.


In September I attended my fourth ever American Foundation for Suicide Prevention "Out Of The Darkness" Walk and I must say it was an inspiring experience. Easily twice as many people as either of the walks I'd attended during 2010, 2011, or 2013. Or it felt as if there were just so many people of positive and heartwarming compassion in attendance anyway. I met the mother and father of Wyatt, a local teenager who had taken his own life, and found renewed hope for my own ongoing experience with suicide. They turned out to be wonderful people with the biggest hearts to have had the misfortune of losing their son to such tragedy.. Even though I am obviously not your son, I hope someday I can make you proud for the suicides I prevent in the years to come.


Perhaps most importantly of all was in mid-September to also take and complete NAMI's "In Our Own Voice" Presenter training. First though, I have to tip my hat again to Susan Caban and Laura Thomas (trainers) as well as all the trainees for a most wonderful and inspiring experience. I hope we meet and have the opportunity to work with each other again many times in the future. Currently, I am awaiting approval of my revised presentation segments after which I will be ready to give my first co-presentation. I am also waiting to discuss with our NAMI Affiliate representatives suggestions about who to pursue offering this presentation for in hopes of reaching as many people of the public as possible. Not ideas too grand mind you. Just ambitions to begin changing the world one speech at a time.


On the other hand, two key areas of development have been stalling for much of this year due to several reasons. First, my mental health recovery hit snags from anxiety and the challenges of figuring out what treatment I need to pursue. Though, I am close to finding an affordable option for psychiatric evaluation so that I can get my mental health symptoms "Officially" diagnosed. When those results are determined, do expect me to share them here for everyone - including the doubters - to see. Once diagnosed, I will have options then for additional treatment as well as vocational rehabilitation to resolve the single most important goal: career employment.


Yes, I am still unemployed. No, I am not lazy and I detest anyone who unwaveringly believes otherwise. I have had to deal with stigma barring me from improving my mental health for years. I will no longer be subjected to influences who or what would rather have me remain voiceless, silent, or taking a back seat to someone else. One year ago today I made the decision to face my mental health or consider the beginnings of giving up for a third and final time. So make no mistake how or why suicide still lurks in my shadow as I move forward into next year. Due to my chronophobia, all these years since that summer of 1994 I have only been able to foresee my life one day, one week, or one month ahead...


It has been like feeling as if I couldn't even guarantee I would still be alive after the month ahead as I have to deal with now. Yet, I am of decent physical health. Few people know what that is like and there is a long line of others who either fear me or feel that because of the car I drive or where my parents live that I am not to be considered amongst those that are my peers.


Too bad.


This guy found his voice and in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead I intend to put up the toughest fight against the rigors of my mental health so that I can find the happiness and purpose of my life that forever has felt non-existent. I don't care what it takes. I will help to open the world's eyes to the true suffering of those who have been through suicide and I will not rest until lives are inspired to live. I know how ambitious that sounds but if you were in my position you would know exactly how "this" feels. I also realize my burn out and recent silence may be troubling to some who know me. It is not as easy as it seems to be a voice for so many people as to be an advocate for mental health awareness. Thank you for still bearing with me with your thoughts and prayers.


Time to change the world and make my own future.


Updates on People First and "In Our Own Voice" as they come. Thank you for following along.


And lastly but certainly not least, happy 96th birthday Grandpa Irion.  You went to be with the Lord back in March of 2008 and I have missed your heartwarming personality ever since.  I hope you and the other relatives who are with you there have been proud of my efforts this past year.  Though I know I have a lot to learn and a long way to go just for my mental health recovery, as well as reclamation of my future, rest assured I intend to help as many people in this life as I can.  Bless your heart, young man.

Categories: Mental Health & Awareness, Inspirational, Public Outreach & Volunteering

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