Jess, a 33-year-old Wittenberg college graduate with a B.A. in Dance and B.S. in Biology has struggled with mental health issues since her 20s and last year began volunteering for NAMI’s young adult Creative Expressions support group as a facilitator.
Jess is currently on disability for her mental health issues, teaches dance classes on the side and is a stay-at-home mom. She initially struggled with severe depression, spending hours in bed and going days with eating little and not showering. Then she experienced hallucinations. After a few stays at hospital psychiatric wards, she says a doctor finally properly diagnosed her as suffering from Schizoaffective disorder with depression and some PTSD. Now she takes 4 psych meds to control her mental health issues.
Since then, she says, life has been on the upswing. She does Yoga in the morning to energize herself and to center her mind. She uses breathing techniques throughout the day if she starts to feel overwhelmed. Her mantra is “Create hope, create yourself.” She says today, she is stable.
“Serving the community in general is something that has always been a part of my family,” says Jess, about why she volunteers for NAMI. Helping others using her life experiences and her soul-searching in psych hospitals “is something that just made sense.”
Jess prepares for the CE Group by researching discussion topics and tries to find an art project or craft that matches the topic for group discussion. She says there are usually 3 to 4 young adults attending the group.
“It has brought me peace and hope,” Jess says of volunteering for NAMI, “It’s given me sense of a path and a purpose, it gives me something to keep working towards, and gives me an answer to: why is all this happening to me?”
As far as the Coronavirus crisis and Ohio’s current Shelter-in-Place order, Jess looks on the bright side. “I know a lot of people are experiencing anxiety during this time,” she says, “but I believe it’s a blessing in disguise. We can slow down, connect with your family, connect with your God if you choose to, read a book – we have all the time in the world now.”