I spoke at a Public Hearing for the state’s budget to advocate for mental health care recently. This is something I’ve never done before. Not knowing what I was doing, I read up on the areas of concern that needed to not be decreased or eliminated, and I wrote why I felt this way. I also added a tiny bit of my experience with Mental Illness into my writing.
I thought to myself that I was prepared, even though I was unsure if my words were appropriate. Yes, I was nervous but onward I went.Waiting for my turn to speak felt eternal. It is not that I have never done public speaking because I had. I had spoken about my mental illness in a forum before, and had done it successfully. But this was different. This was televised and I was uncertain of the comments I was saying. This was more of a professional and formal atmosphere than I had previously spoke in before.
Finally my name was called and I walked up and sat in the front chair, and waited for the person beside me to finish speaking. As I was sitting there, I was aware (quite significantly) that the top of my head began to pound. I tried to will it away. I prayed to get through this speech. It was only two minutes. I could do this. Truly I didn’t feel as nervous as my body was responding. I was able to read some of my speech, but my time seemed to fly by much too quickly. And when I saw the red light go on, I finished the sentence that I was reading.
I smiled as the chairman of the board said “Thank you for coming”, and I quickly walked out of the Town Hall. My head was uncontrollably pounding and nausea was taking over. When I got to my car, first thing I was able to do was call my husband. Thank God he was available and able to be as calming and understanding as he was.
I sat there in my car crying with my husband at the other end of the phone for over a half an hour. Then I was able to move my car down the road to the drugstore to get some migraine medicine, and once again sit there for a short period of time. Thank God for my husband’s calming voice and help with what I should do next. Sometimes the ability to think to the next step when anxiety takes over is beyond me. Despite all of my chaos after the speech, it is without any recognition from anyone that there was any problem.
That is the way it always has been for me. I’m (usually) able to keep it together and smile until after what needs to be done is done. I can appear calm on the outside, and how I’m able to do this is not even understood by me. Though this doesn’t work all the time, my calm demeanor is even not understood by me.
What I’m thankful for is that even though I had a breakdown after I spoke at the town hall, the Lord allowed me to speak. I was able to get across some of my thoughts clearly. I spoke on behalf of the many people that so need these services, and their funding.
What I learned is that in an atmosphere such as this, I would prefer to advocate from the sidelines. Perhaps writing my beliefs and experiences would be the better way to go. I can advocate loudly by writing to the government officials.
This is a copy of my recent statement at the Town Hall in relation to the budget and Mental Healthcare:
March 9, 2015
I first introduced myself.
I’m a former Registered Nurse who is now unable to work due to my disabling Bipolar Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Anxiety Disorder. I’m here in support of the funding for Mental Health Services as proposed in the budget.
All of the proposed areas are in great need for continuation, and I believe there is even a greater need than these alone. Even the thought of decreasing the Mental Health efforts when there is such a need for more help is troublesome. This decision will put any mental health reform, stigma, or agenda to decrease discrimination toward mental health obstacles at a major disadvantage. There is such a great need for more medical help, sensitivity to individuals, and a greater need for awareness of the burden that is Mental Illness.
The Ten Year Mental Health Plan and the Children’s Behavioral Health Plan are integral parts to making a change in Mental Health Reform and bringing us to a better place with regard to Mental Illness problems as a society. Thinking of Mental Illness as secondary or a less important problem is wrong and needs to be changed. Meeting the needs of all human beings and their illnesses is the goal.
I recall thinking to myself one time that I would prefer to have a terminal cancer because at least there is an end to the suffering. Why is it that a physical illness is anymore important than mental illness? It is the entire person as a whole that is in need of assistance.
I support the reauthorizing of The New Hampshire Health Protection Program. Low Income families afflicted with substance abuse and Mental Illness need both medical and mental health help, along with substance abuse help as well. There are many individuals already benefiting from the mental health services which are provided as part of this Health Protection Program. Also substance abuse care is needed for low income individuals as well.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse programs are essential. As part of the news we hear about the increase in suicide which can be helped with enough mental health resources available. I must admit that Suicidal Ideation is something in which I struggle with myself. It is a symptom of my mental illness that I deal with, and without resources to help me learn how to deal with it, I may not be here today. Also deaths related to substance abuse is astonishing. I was recently touched by a death of friend’s child. A beautiful young female who was twenty-seven and had one child at her time of death due to heroine. Decreasing these instances and more help is needed.
Finally, I support the funding for the Mental Health Settlement Agreement. Though it was stated in the “Expert Reviewer Report” written on December 26, 2014 that there are “not sufficient” resources for implementation. These resources are “scarce” but that is not a reason to “slow down or impede implementation”. I believe that moving forward is essential. There are ways to move forward, but to decrease what is minimally available is disheartening. It decreases any abilities to solving critical areas of concern.