NAMI member since 1996
NAMI support group for 10+ years
NAMI "In Our Own Voice" Presenter
NAMI Peer to Peer Instructor
Let me introduce Pete:
It was over 30 years ago when Pete and the rest of our family were first devastated by mental illness. He was in his sophomore year in college. Little did he or any of us know the horrors of depression until reality struck.
In my family when you get knocked down you get back up. Pete did just that. This wasn't just any challenge, mind you. It was in fact destined to be a lifelong battle. As an intelligent guy he researched the heck out of his condition. He learned from books, medical personnel, and from others who were struggling. Pete settled in for decades of prescription drugs and nearly as many Psychiatrists and counselors. He occasionally fought with suicidal thoughts and was hospitalized on a few occasions. Those were frightening times. The darkness of depression turns minutes into hours. Those are memories we would probably rather forget. But at the same time that is exactly what maintains our vigilence to raise awareness, fight stigma, and help lead others to NAMI. There is no better organization for a plethora of resources serving those fighting mental illness than the National Alliance for Mental Illness.
Pete, Dana (sister), Brett (brother-in-law), John, Jerry (Dad), Kathy (Mom). Photo from the 1990's.
now from pete:
Even as a young child I knew there was something different about me. I was usually happy go-lucky but then I would experience moments of sadness, during which I often cried. My parents just thought I was a nervous child, but I could feel something different happening, something that would stay with me for the rest of my life. My depression got worse in high school and I scored low on some sections of my pre-college testing because I was depressed that day. I didn't understand what depression was, I just knew it was a dark feeling that would come and go.
In my Sophomore year at college I had my first breakdown. I had experienced low levels of mania before but this episode was really severe. I was working at the student union as a maintenance worker when I had my breakdown. In the middle of a business conference I was overwhelmed by severe mania and I stood up on a salad rack and gave a speech. The speech was incoherent because even I didn't know what I was saying. My parents came and brought me to a psychiatrist. I spent three weeks inpatient in the grip of a severe manic episode. The only way I can describe it is that I was 99% mania and 1% me. The doctors tried 9 different drugs to try and get me under control. I shouted at my nurses and doctors and was very physically agitated. The 9th drug they gave me worked. Otherwise I may have been institutionalized. It was a first generation drug and made my joints stiff. I gained 50 pounds my Sophomore year. My medications made me severely drowsy and I slept a ridiculous amount of the day. Making it through my Sophomore year was one of the greatest miracles of my life, and somehow I managed to keep my grades up and earn a degree.
In my career, I would go on to work at a nuclear plant, get another degree, and I worked 5 years as a computer programmer. Since then, I've worked 18 years and counting in customer service. However, depression always followed me, and in 2007 I was fired from my last full-time job during a 3 month bout of depresssion. I now work part time in fast foods. While my career is essentially over, I still enjoy many hobbies and I have a great life. Being active in NAMI has been a tremendous resource for me. It's very hard to understand what it's like to have a mental illness unless you have one. I have a great camaraderie with my NAMI group of friends. That said, my family has always been a great support for me; I don't know what I'd do without them. My brother, who is doing the source to sea paddle for this fundraiser, is a great source of inspiration for me. He works for an education technology firm, he's an Ironman triathlete, and he loves to exercise. He is also an accomplished kayaker and has raced all over the eastern United States. This fundraiser was his idea, but I'm all behind him in his effort. NAMI is a great charity that does so much for the mentally ill.
I hope you will consider donating; even the smallest donation can make a difference in the life of someone with a mental illness. You can track John's progress through social media linked to his site. This will be one of John's greatest accomplishments, in a life filled with great accomplishments. I know that John will work hard and push himself to complete the course competently and quickly. I am excited to monitor John as he tackles yet another grueling physical challenge. If you have a mental illness, or you know someone that does, I urge you to consider NAMI as a resource. All of their services are free of charge and will provide a loving community for you or your loved one.
In the words of NAMI: You are not alone.
John, Pete, Brett, and Mom's pies
Pete with Freya (Niece) and Beau (nephew)
Pete and Beau
John & Pete in the time of Garanimals
The college years
Left: Pete and John
Above: Pete and Sammy (one of his many labs).