Been a couple of weeks since I posted. Many good things have happened since then. I got to work with an outstanding young woman from my area of the state on a project that highlighted mental health. Don’t know if she wants to be recognized here or not, so I’ll just use her first name. Alia is a bright, talented high school student who agreed some months ago to work on a project with a 39-year-old man who has paranoid schizophrenia (me). Guess that makes her kind of a risk-taker, too. My clinical psychologist, Dr. Nancy Merbitz, she, and I gave two presentations earlier this month at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.
Alia and I worked on and off for the better part of four months to bring what we hoped would be a worthwhile presentation to the audience. I think we succeeded. I feel like we did. We received a lot of positive feedback from the audience. Alia created and delivered a very professional Powerpoint presentation and then asked Dr. Nancy and me some very important questions regarding people (in general) who have schizophrenia and then specifically about my experiences with the disorder. Topics ranged from schizophrenia and the media, schizophrenia and violence, hallucinations and delusions, my family life, and what has been helpful to me in my recovery process. My hope is that we were able to dispel some myths and educate the audience about a widely misunderstood illness.
Not to be forgotten, though, is the importance of the three of us working together. Dr. Nancy is the consummate professional, one with whom I have worked for quite a number of years. She understands the disorder as well as any professional I have come across. However, Alia, I don’t think, had any clue what to expect. In truth, although she said she was fascinated by my story, she also admitted that she was a bit scared of this project (me). To be honest, Alia, in the beginning, the same was true for me.
I suppose the point to this is that we both took a risk. And, even though I was a bit of scared of working with someone I didn’t know, I think Alia took the bigger risk. I can’t imagine the courage that it took to accept this project, but that is what she did. Through it all, she didn’t seem to get too shaken. Even when some of my ideas and statements may have been a little grandiose (and some of them, especially in the beginning, probably were), she didn’t falter.
I could say many more things, but I think the most important thing I could say is thank you. Thank you for taking the chance on me, for agreeing to do this project. Without your help, your genuine curiosity, and your courage, this wouldn’t have been possible. We did something good earlier this month…not only for me but for the mentally ill population, the community-at-large, as well as for ourselves.
Maybe the next time an opportunity arises for you to speak up on behalf of someone or a group of someones who perhaps lack the ability to speak up for themselves, you too will be as brave as Alia. I’d like to think that most of us would take that chance. Not speaking up and not letting your voice be heard, to me anyway (and I would bet to most people), doesn’t feel really good. Speaking up and taking action may be harder at first, but believe me when I say, that it is very rewarding. Thank you to Dr. Nancy for her hard work; as well as being a top-notch professional in the field, she is also an avid advocate for mental health. And, thank you, Alia. I don’t know what path your life will take, but I know that for a couple of evenings in May 2010, you spoke up for the mentally ill population, and for that, you should be very proud of yourself.
Best wishes to all…