NAMI’S Future: Micah Pearson: NAMI Saved My Life!

(7-5-17) If you were fortunate to hear Micah Pearson give his convention campaign speech, it is easy to understand why he was elected to the NAMI board of directors. This written version doesn’t do his talk justice because it is missing the passion and exuberance, in which, he delivered it. Several in the audience interrupted him with cheers as he spoke about his vision for NAMI. This is the third speech given at the candidate forum that I want to share with you.)

Micah Pearson: Why I Am Here!

I agonized over my stump speech.

How would I communicate the intricacies of my platform, the goals I hoped to achieve in working with the other dynamic people? How could I tell of my lifelong struggles to accept, cope, and eventually thrive with my mental health conditions? How can I possibly convey my passion to do the work of NAMI and to do my part to ensure that it touched as many lives as possible?

And most importantly: How would I do all of that in five minutes or less?

Even as I was sitting in my seat on the stage in the banquet hall, squeezed somewhere in the middle of the 16 distinguished candidates, I found myself struggling with all of these thoughts. It wasn’t until I was standing in front of the microphones that I eschewed those goals entirely and decided to simply introduce myself in a way that told people why I was standing there in the first place.  micah

I am here because in 2004 I took a NAMI Peer to Peer class and learned that I was not a broken toy because I live with Bipolar Type I with rapid Cycling and psychotic features.

I am here because in that same class I was not “stupid” because I also live with severe Attention Deficit Hyperactive disorder.

I am here because after I took that class, I was able to call my parents and tell them that they should take the Family to Family class and learn more about the conditions with which I lived.

I am here because when I finally had my breakdown and needed to move from my home here in Washington D.C. to the rural town of Las Cruces New Mexico, my parents were now Family to Family teachers who had the skills to help me engage in my recovery.

I am here because NAMI saved my life.

I am here because after engaging in my recovery for two years and becoming active in my affiliate, I came to my first national meeting four years ago and saw all of the great things NAMI was doing that I was hearing about for the first time and it changed my life.

I am here because NAMI has opened doors for me to share my story with the state, city, and local legislatures and fight for better access to services for others with experiences like my own.

I am here because when I once stood in front of a judge and, even though I was 35 years old and had never interacted with law enforcement before in my life, he told me I was “one of those bipolars,” and since my condition was incurable, no one could guarantee I wouldn’t “pop off” again.

I am here because of when I was kept in solitary confinement, naked save for a smock in a holding cell where the lights were never turned off for over a week and denied access to my medications. But I am also here because when that was all happening… I had no idea that the NAMI National Headquarters was less than a mile away.

I am here because when I moved to Las Cruces, I went out into the rural minority communities who were suffering, they had never heard of us.

I am here because when I spoke to members of our LGBTQ communities, and they asked me what programs NAMI had to address their life experiences, I didn’t have an answer.

I am here because even as I live with Bipolar Disorder with Psychotic features and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I know which condition causes the most difficulty-which affects most directly my ability to get through any and every day of my life. Which one causes the most anxiety and is the source of most of my daily struggles.

I am here because that condition is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and I am here because I don’t need anyone else to tell me that it isn’t a “Serious” mental health condition that doesn’t warrant our attention.

I am here because NAMI is strong. But I am also here because NAMI can be stronger.

I am here because NAMI is a leader in the realm of Mental Health Advocacy, one that is at the forefront of the movement, so we NEED to have the big picture approach that is as diverse and inclusive as possible.

I am here because NAMI is my life. You know, over at the information booth, they have all of those colorful ribbons for our name badges to identify the different roles we fill within the organization. I added my tenth ribbon this year. Yeah, NAMI is my life and my family.

I am here because NAMI helped be to develop into a Peer Leader, because that’s what we are. I am NOT a consumer, because I did NOT buy my condition and I contribute.

I am here because NAMI forged a path for me to walk to make sure others did not have to go through what I did to get here today.

I am here because NAM is my family. You are all my family, and I love you all.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.