OUR STORIES

NAMI NJ features people with mental illness, family members, providers, researchers, advocates and all members of the mental health community who fight the battle against mental illness every day. When confronted with mental illness, you and your family may have a story to tell that celebrates an everyday hero who stands up against mental illness. Share your story of hope to provide inspiration and comfort to others. You may be amazed at how your sharing will impact others, just like those who felt compelled to share below and inspire us all.  If you would like to have your story featured, please contact us at info@naminj.org.

 

anfal

My mom was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, my dad was a successful entrepreneur, as well as a heroin addict, my 21 year old daughter has a diagnosis of bipolar schizo-affective disorder, and my 3 year old son is diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The beginning of my experience with mental illness started when my mom was hospitalized. I was 12 when she tried to set our home on fire, along with many odd things she’d do that we, her children, didn’t understand.  Read more…

 

namiourstorypicture

I have always been a generally upbeat, social, and intelligent person. As a child, I loved going to school. My teachers agreed that I was an excellent student and had no problem making friends. They also told my parents about some other observations during parent-teacher conferences. I was always asking my teachers if they thought I was sick, asking them to feel my head for a fever when I was fine, or if they thought my heart was beating too fast. At home, I would go through brief periods where I would cry all the time for no reason and not eat. Usually, the episode would subside and I would be back to my happy self.  Read more…

 

Jacquese Armstrong

My friends noticed a change in my demeanor before I did, asking why I was so “touchy” all of a sudden or why I was “breaking down” in the middle of the day. This was the beginning of a nightmare for me (of course now I call it a challenge) and the end of my pursuit of a chemical engineering degree.

I was 20, in my junior year, when I had a psychotic break. I have lived with schizo-affective disorder for 32 years now. My disorder manifests schizophrenic and bipolar symptoms. It has been a challenge to live with, but I constantly rise to meet it. I have no choice if I want to live.  Read more…

 

 

Kristen Heckeroth

It’s hard to believe that 2013 is almost over. For me, 2013 was an awesome year: I finished college, I applied to start graduate school, I returned to full time employment, I got engaged, I turned 30, and, well, I’m alive. I really never thought I’d be able to say that: I’m thirty and I’m alive. For most people this isn’t a big deal. For me, it’s groundbreaking. My mother has always told me that “fear is a powerful motivator.” She’s right. However, I’ve also learned that hope is a powerful motivator. And, while I have a wonderful support system, hope came for me in the form of NAMI. We often hear how NAMI can save families and how it helps parents and their ill children (or vice versa) and gives them a way to open a much-needed (and very, very hard) dialogue. For me, it was a little different.  Read more…

 

Grace TravinskyTwelve years ago as I was sitting in my office I received a phone call from my daughter Tanya, who was at the time was a senior at UCLA. I was surprised by the midday phone call from my daughter. “Hi Mom,” she said. “My psychiatrist wants to speak with you.” Tanya handed the phone to the doctor. I didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t even know Tanya had been seeing a psychiatrist. That the doctor told me that she had been seeing Tanya for over six months. That Tanya was going to withdraw from school and come home for treatment. That Tanya had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Read more…

 

 

Ken EshelmanWhen mental illness first occurred in my family and I didn’t know what to do, a friend suggested NAMI for support. Not only did my local NAMI affiliate offer support, but support with compassion, and education about mental illness to help me understand what was happening in my family. As a result, of such care, I have supported my affiliate, and NAMI NJ. It has been a fulfilling experience, watching the programs and opportunities for expressive arts expand.  Read more…

 

 

Mike JonesMy name is Mike Jones. I am a NAMI New Jersey Board member and the Veterans Committee chair. My family, like very many others, lives with mental illness. When I finally discovered NAMI, I took the Family-to-Family Education course, and quickly went on to become a Family-to-Family teacher myself. I now actively participate in local, state, and national level efforts to educate, improve services, and reduce stigma, not only for my family, but also for fellow veterans, military, and their families. Read more…

 

Melissa MaranoOn a beautiful sunny day in 2012, I gathered my family and we went to our first NAMI NJ Walk. The spirit of that day clarified what I had felt since joining NAMI NJ in 2011 – community. It is this community that you experience when your loved one attends a support group, a teacher attends a workshop, a family receives a list of resources for their loved one, or you attend an art exhibition. All of this and more is NAMI NJ. Read more…

 

 

Tiffany MayersI am an African-American woman born and raised in Elizabeth, NJ. As I count down to graduating from my MSW program in May of 2014 I think back to the journey that led me here. Growing up I understood many of the issues that my family and other families within my urban community were facing, including mental health. While in college my younger brother was diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. It took my mother and family members by surprise, but we immediately began searching for services to assist him. Read more…

 

Anisha S. GosainI am an Indian American born in New Delhi and raised in New Jersey. My sister has struggled with schizophrenia and a co-occurring diagnosis of bipolar disorder for most of her adult life. It has been a turbulent roller coaster ride – from having to deal with stigma to her transition to independence. Being of South Asian descent, where mental illness is not spoken about openly, it was difficult for my family to comprehend why this was happening, what is to be done and how to cope with all this. Read more...

 

 

Jay YudofI first walked into a NAMI meeting in the fall of 1997. New to peer groups, I found the education and support I needed. I also found something more, a role in systems advocacy. I was instantly introduced to the culture of advocacy. The opportunity to move into an advocacy role clicked with me. I think it was enhanced by a holy day talk I had heard a few years before. The gist of the Rabbi’s sermon was “we all have busy lives, and spend time earning our livings, and taking care of ourselves and our families. Little time is left for helping our communities. But it is how you spend that little piece that matters so much.” Read more…

 

Scott FineMy wife and I live in Atlantic County, NJ. We have two adult sons and enjoy being grandparents of two healthy little boys. Neither she or I can identify any family history of mental illness, however our youngest son suffers with a severe mental illness and was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2010. We searched for help and found NAMI NJ. Both of us have been active with NAMI Atlantic County for over five years. Because of NAMI, I’m giving back, “to balance the weight and burden of supporting my loved one who suffers”.   Read more…

 

 

 

 

Having a child in the first place is a beautiful blessing. Having two children is even better. Having your wife and two children always close to you and there for you is absolutely irreplaceable. It’s a feeling of warmth and security. This past summer during moments of need my wife, my daughter and son were there at all times, when most needed.  Read more…

Submitted by Richard Friedman on February 28, 2013

 

 

Sometimes you miss silver linings in the moment, but once you step out of the darkness of your mind you can see them. They are directional messages and lessons that aid you in your journey. I suffered from significant and persistent depression, anxiety, and sleep disorder for a year after the sudden collapse of an 18 year marriage. The storm clouds were dark, indeed. I felt hopeless and alone, and somehow had to find the strength to care for my daughters, who needed me, during this time. I was lucky to have a supportive family and a strong network of friends and a loving community to help during those dark days when I was unsure of what was next. The storm clouds have passed and the silver lining is this; I am a role model to my girls — that one can rise like a phoenix from the ashes. I am proud to say I have managed to find a new career working for a non profit that helps women and girls navigate conflict and enhance their communication skills. I was able to find a new home after months of worries of where we would land. I have embarked on a new relationship with someone that is rich and rewarding in ways I would not have imagined possible. The journey will always have challenges. The trick is to remember that it is the darkest clouds that lead to the brightest sunbursts.

Submitted by Amie Herman of Maplewood, NJ on March 04, 2013

 

 

My silver lining came off the heels of a massive crash and burn point in my life back in 2008. I was hospitalized after experiencing crippling major depression and anxiety and it took at least one year from the summer of 2008 to feel like I had climbed out of a deep dark pit. My personal life was in upheaval with the breakup of my marriage and my disillusionment with my career as a nurse. This was truly a dark cloud without any lining. A flash came in the summer of 2009 when I answered and advertisement offering a masters degree in nursing in exchange for a 3 year service commitment in the US Army. It’s now 2013 and I am proud to extol that the silver lining that had been so elusive for so long carried me to where I am right now. I am a soldier, an officer and a mental health practitioner. I service the men and women who protect us every day addressing their silent wounds.

Submitted by CPT Evan Bragin PMHNP-BC, Army Nurse Corp, on February 26, 2013

 

 

I have had a mental illness to live with since about 1979, as the result of a head injury that I had in a car-bicycle accident. The illness had been very difficult to live with for many years, but now I am doing much better, and I am on the right medications. The “Silver Lining” of my illness is, although it has been difficult, I would not have been able to know all of the wonderful people in my life now, all of my friends, my job, many wonderful people in my life. My mom has even been able to make some good friends, as the result of the path that my life took, which I am very glad about. God Bless.

Submitted by Marc Stolzer on February 25, 2013

 

HOPE STARTS WITH YOU. GIVE HOPE TODAY.