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NAMI PA Blair County's 2018 Recovery Conference

Posted on April 21, 2018 at 1:10 AM

Before I share another regular blog post, I wanted to talk about my experience participating and volunteering at a very recent community event which I had not mentioned previously. Since it turned out to be a particularly positive experience for me, I hope that by taking this opportunity to share it with all of you will make it extra special to read about.

On Thursday April 19th, hosted by the Lakemont Casino, I attended NAMI PA Blair County's annual Recovery Conference of which this year I was a Gold-level Sponsor. I tip my hat to my fellow Conference Planning Committee members, all the volunteers, and participants who made this delightfully inspiring Conference to go so well this year.

The key note speaker Ms. Lindsey Smith, affectionately known as the Food Mood Girl, gave a most energizing presentation on how food can and does relate most directly to a person's mental health. Although I was not as invested beforehand in the presentation because of the food theme, I must say I was very pleased with how it actually turned out. Ms. Smith began by sharing her heartfelt experiences of when mental health symptoms first emerged during her youth. Since I have already discovered so much about my own early symptoms, I was immediately drawn in for being able to relate so closly to what she had experienced. I was hooked. Ms. Smith then talked about the history of over a decade that she had spent developing her food mood concepts in great detail. I almost couldn't help myself when I realized just how she had come to all of her conclusions.


Ms. Smith shared a memory of attending a nutrition conference in which she ended up being the only one to order soup, rather than a salad, before the meals were served. She was able to take those brief few moments, reflect on them with the rest of us, and explain how she was able to realize that social stigma actually influenced what took place when she ordered the soup instead. Plus, this also served as an excellent example when faced with even minor stigma to show how she was able to stick to her food mood concepts and keep herself in balance. The truly sensible and intriguing nature of how mindfulness played a major part in what Ms. Smith had discovered with food, as well as cravings, being related to a person's mental health and moods, turned out to be an eye opening experience for me.

Thank you so kindly, Ms. Smith, for joining us at the Conference to give such an inspiring presentation.

On the other hand, a particular presentation that preceded Ms. Smith's actually gave me a rousing wake-up call which may or may not turn out to be important in the weeks ahead. While I am in the midst of career planning with the PA Blair County CareerLink, first initiated by the local Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), I have yet to progress far enough to discover possible careers to pursue. So, my mind has been tediously searching for answers. Answers, in fact, to the single-most difficult mental health dilemma of my entire life: career anxiety and indecision. This issue has single-handedly prevented the majority of my adult development into financial independence as well as emotional stability. Though, not for a lack of my effort to try in the eighteen years since I graduated high school.

The presentation in question was by Skills of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. Their program involved psychiatric rehabilitation and a very innovative approach to use six word memoirs with the individuals involved. Three of the program participants had attended to share each of their own memoirs, and I must say that they each tugged at my heart strings. While they were sharing their memoirs though, I realized something very important. On a basic level, they were being encouraged through utilizing words to express themselves in ways that positively improved their mental health. They were also doing this with only six words so that anyone could make positive progress by starting with just a single word. I thought to myself... Well, what was I doing already for this past year and a half? Aha!

Allow me to share the six word memoir I came up with and shared aloud during the presentation, which is inspired by Marvel's Captain America:  "I can do this all day".

While I obviously haven't been sharing my collective story in only six words, I am very skilled to do exactly what they were doing. I have a way with words. They have a way with words, too. Now, I had known about the program early last year thanks to fellow co-volunteer, NAMI PA Blair County Board member, and community volunteer, Pam Townsend. But I hadn't seen it in action until this Conference. What a difference is made by giving such an event like this a chance - and - to learn things about both food as well as with words that I did not realize before. This is definitely a feel-good moment. Let me also tell you that, because of my career anxiety, it has been very rare for me to experience a genuine moment of career inspiration. Therefore, even rarer than that has such an inspiration actually lead to a productive career choice.

Well... not even rarer.

Actually, never.

So, as I progress both through career planning, as well as checking in to this Six Word Memoir psychiatric rehab program with Skills, what was once an uncertain next few months may in fact turn into something more. Now, allow me to share what may someday be a future six word memoir, for the Skills program participants if you are reading this, and a potential motto for me if this particular career pursuit becomes a hopeful success:  "Life. Six words at a time."

For now, though, there still is one final moment of clarity before we reach a... Marvel-ous... moment on April 27th. Tune in tomorrow to find out more.

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

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