Monday, January 4, 2010

Guest Blog: Arming for Recovery

One of the pleasures of doing advocacy work is meeting great people. Last year, I joined the board of NAMI San Diego, where I had the opportunity to work with the organization's communications specialist, Julie Benn. This piece first appeared in NAMI SD's "Weekly Reader," and reappears here with Julie's kind permission ...

A few years ago, long before I started working for NAMI, I did something I thought I'd never do. I had four words tattooed on my left arm. To give you some background on this, my left arm was the one I used to compulsively cut and abuse when I was in high school in order to deal with my mental pain and anguish. Not a great coping skill, but it was the only thing I could think of at the time.

Fast-forward to 2004 and I have had both a nervous breakdown and a traumatic brain injury all within a year's span. At that time, I decided to do something beautiful for the arm I had abused for so many years-something that would be a tribute to my journey of recovery, both physically and emotionally. So I got tattoos of the words: compassion, healing, hope and love.

Years later, I started volunteering and then working for NAMI as the Communications Specialist. NAMI was introduced to me by my psychologist at the time and with the sense of caring and community I found there, I came to associate the words I had on my arm with what NAMI stands for: compassion, healing, hope and love.

Today I use my tattoos and what I have learned from NAMI as teaching tools in the speeches I give throughout the community on mental health. I also use them as my very tangible coping skills-it's hard to ignore what's in living color on one's skin.

This holiday season, I am extremely grateful for my association with NAMI and I am proud of the work I am able to do with them. And on those darker days when I seem to overlook what is good in my life, all I have to do is roll up my sleeve, and look at my arm.


You can check out Julie in Part I of "Five Faces of Hope," produced last year by NAMI San Diego.

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