NAMI Walks Atlanta 2014

On Saturday November 1 NAMI Walks Atlanta took  place in Piedmont Park, in Atlanta, GA.  Speak Away the Stigma formed a team and solicited donations.  A BIG THANK YOU to Qiana Leonard, Futuera Patterson, & Tiffany Waits for walking with me and supporting an organization I support.  We solicited donations, and I am proud to say that our team goal was $500.00, but we raised $615.00 from 23 generous supports!  Please take a few minutes to read about why The National Alliance on Mental Illness (aka NAMI) is a great organization.

When I first got the courage to look up information on mental illness was one of the first websites I found. (I use the word courage because reading about what some mentally ill people go through on a daily basis isn’t easy, when a loved one is going through it)  The NAMI website has information and statistics about many different illnesses. It is easy to read and understand, and is a great place to start learning about mental illness.

Virtual Advocacy
When I want to know what is going on with mental health advocacy, I can go to No matter if it is a new piece of legislation, Criminal Justice and mental health, Mental Healthcare, and advocacy information by state, NAMI has information about it.  There is a “You Are Not Alone” section that encourages individuals to share their story in hopes of inspiring others.

Support Groups
If you are someone living with a mental illness, a school or health professional or just someone who wants to learn more about mental health, NAMI has a group for you!  The Family to Family class was the first time I was able to speak openly about having a family member with a mental ill and knew that my feelings were understood.  I cried, I laughed, I learned, I met people I could openly talk about dealing w/my loved one without shame.  Three things I took away from the NAMI Family to Family class: 1.  That mental illness can affect ANYONE.  The class had a former college president, whose mentally ill son had recently moved  back home, a woman whose brother had been suffering from mental illness since she was a child and a grandmother whose grandson had just had his first episode.  2.  That there is hope.  One of the instructor’s daughters has schizophrenia, and she was in a period of recovery.  She spoke to the class, and I couldn’t help but believe that anyone with a mental illness may be able to live an independent life with treatment and support.  3. The desire to do more.  I have always wanted to give back to those in need.  After this class and reading about mental illness, I know there is a need for more people to to educated on mental health and mental illness to help erase the stigma associated with it.  There is also a need for funding for mental health care, and I want to somehow make a difference.

In addition to mental illness and mental health awareness, Speak Away the Stigma hopes to be able to help pay for medication or therapist visits for those who cannot afford to get help.  One of my goals is to speak about shedding the shame I had, having a mentally ill family member, dealing with my own depression and taking care of myself before I attempt to take care of anyone else.








surviving schizophrenia

At about the age of 13 I found out my mother’s diagnosis, it was Schizophrenia. I was reading through some court papers, that I wasn’t supposed to have  been reading, and saw it: “…… has been diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia”. I can’t recall exactly how I felt reading it, but I do know I was a bit relived.  For the past 5-6 years I knew my mom wasn’t OK, but I didn’t know what was wrong with her.  I didn’t know why she always heard voices, I didn’t know why she would get so angry when we told her we didn’t see the things that she saw.  I didn’t know why my mother didn’t hug us or tell us that she loved us.  I didn’t understand why she thought the breakfast we made for her on mother’s day, had poison or spit in it.

No one talked to us about why my mom was in and out of the hospital, every couple of years. No one in my family told me my mother had Schizophrenia, I read it in court papers.  Whenever I had a chance , I would try to find out more information about the illness, but at my age I didn’t understand what I read, so I just stopped.  I just accepted that is what my mother had, and to me, she was uncaring, unstable, irresponsible, and angry. 

Despite my feelings, I was always grateful for the values she instilled in us at a young age.  During the years, when her recovery periods were short, we were able to still take care of ourselves.  We knew how to get ourselves off to school, cook for ourselves and do our school work to maintain good grades.  I credit that not only to my mother, but also to my grandparents, and the grace of God.  It would be almost two decades before I would be able to separate the symptoms of the  illness from my mom.  She was not the illness.  She was just the opposite.  During her periods of her recovery, she was a different woman, and I had to learn to remember the confident, hard-working, big-hearted, loving, smart, and somewhat stubborn woman she will always be. Read More

A GIRL with….


T.V. shows often imitate real life.  It isn’t often that real mental health issues are worked into a storyline.  However, Lena Dunham, creator, writer and star of the HBO series GIRLS, made OCD a part of Hannah’s (Lena’s character on the HBO series) story.  The revelation that Hannah had been diagnosed with OCD at a young age, in my opinion, was a celebratory moment.   Hannah is a character that many fans love, and she has had moments that many of us can relate to. By adding a mental illness to Hannah’s story, it gave a different reality to the illness; a reality that says OCD can affect your co-worker, your child, your best friend.

Lena speaks openly about living with OCD since she was a young child. Take a minute to review what she says in interviews with NBC News, US Magazine and NY Daily:

She also discusses it in her new book Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’e “Learned”.  The book has gotten great reviews and is said to be “…Thoughtful, hilarious, and exquisitely-written, Dunham’s memoir is like reading your quirky big sister’s diary.” –Brittany Pirozzolo (

Information on OCD from The National Institute of Mental Health (link below)

Obsessions: Unwanted thoughts, ideas  or images that won’t go away.

Compulsions: Behaviors you feel you must carry out repeatedly, sometimes for hours.

A person with OCD will feel an overwhelming urge to repeat certain rituals (compulsions) to try and control their thoughts.

It is possible for OCD symptoms to show at any age, however most often they begin between the ages of 10 to 12 OR between the ages of 18 to 23; there have been symptoms in children as young as 4 years old.

OCD is believed to be linked to the parts of the brain that control fear and anxiety; stress and environmental factors may play a role also. 

Approx. 2.2 million American adults are affected by OCD, and men and women seem to be affected equally.

Common Obsessions

Frequent thoughts  of violence or harming a loved one

(It is my understanding that while they have thoughts or images of harming a loved one, THERE IS NO DESIRE TO CARRYOUT THE ACT!  In fact these thoughts and images frighten the individual.  They don’t know why they are having these thoughts, when they don’t want to harm anyone, and this usually leads them to a compulsion such as counting or repeating phrases.)

Constantly thinking about performing sex acts the person dislikes OR Constantly having thoughts prohibited by religious beliefs

(Because the thoughts and ideas they are having are things they do not like or go against what they know to be correct they are often distressed and have high levels of anxiety bc they don’t know why they are having the  thoughts and images)

Germs and Dirt, Intruders, & Safety

These may seem like normal things to be concerned about, and they are, but the frequency that OCD suffers thing about these things can be disruptive to their daily lives.  Not only do they have the thoughts to deal with , but the compulsive behavior that comes along with it. For someone that has an obsession with safety may check, double and triple check the iron is off before they leave for work.  Then they lock the door, but unlock it to go back in an check the iron.  Get to the car, but the thought that the iron may still be on is in their head-even though they will admit they checked several times they drive away without having checked one more time.  There is still a sting chance they will turn back around once on the road, to check the iron again. 

Get more information here:

Also check out the International OCD Foundation ( for more information, to find out how you can get help, and how you can get involved.

Schizophrenia + A Daily Routine = Road to Recovery?

That is what worked for writer Michael Hedrick.  In a recent story on a NY TIMES blog, Hedrick tells how after a couple of bumps in the road he was able to develop a routine.  Up at 7am each day and ending his day around 9pm each day, he says the routine “….gave me great comfort to not have to deal with the unexpected.”   This routine allowed for the proper amounts of daily sleep, and because “….I felt much more relaxed and was able to finally wrap my head around my diagnosis.”

Read the full story here: