Voices of Recovery, Episode 16: Receiving Help & Passing It Along

JUL. 13, 2023

Voices of Recovery: Episode 16

Nikki Rashes is grateful to her mother for the unending support she provided throughout Nikki’s recovery. Nikki now works for the NAMI National office as the Senior Manager of Programs and Digital Training Delivery. She also regularly speaks as a part of NAMI’s In Our Own Voice program, where she shares her journey to recovery after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 19. Nikki has told her story too many times to count, and whether she's presenting to a group of nurses or a high school class, Nikki's story resonates with her audience. In this episode, Nikki talks with Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI's Chief Medical Officer, about the people who helped her on the road to recovery.


This conversation was part of Dr. Duckworth’s research for the book, You Are Not Alone: The NAMI Guide to Navigating Mental Health--With Advice from Experts and Wisdom from Real People and Families. Hear more episodes of this and other podcasts at nami.org/podcast.  
 

 

Episode:

 

Episode Transcript:

[0:00] [background music]

Dr. Ken Duckworth: [0:02] Welcome to "You Are Not Alone, Voices of Recovery." Hi, I'm Dr. Ken Duckworth. I'm a psychiatrist and the chief medical officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI. I'm the author of NAMI's first book, "You Are Not Alone, the NAMI guide to navigating mental health with advice from experts and wisdom from real people and families."

[0:22] I talked to over 100 people for this book. I want to share some of those conversations to share more about what they had to teach. Nikki Rashes lives outside of Chicago now. She moved there from Michigan and she's been part of NAMI for 12.5 years. She works for NAMI's national office now as a program manager for presentation programs.

[0:46] Nikki also describes her mother, Sally, as her hero. Her mother had a lot to teach her during her journey. I was so thankful to hear Nikki's story, and I was far from the first one to hear it. Nick is a veteran of NAMI's in our own voice talks.

[1:01] These are presentations given by NAMI for free to various organizations like schools, community groups, hospitals, pretty much anybody that request them. In these presentations, what happens is, the people get up and tell personal stories about their mental health journeys, and Nikki has a wonderful story to tell.

Nikki: [1:21] I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 19. Throughout my life, had symptoms that probably could have been recognized earlier as a young child, maybe four to five years old.

[1:39] I remember lying in my mom's bed, crying and crying. She would ask me what's wrong, and it was always, "I don't know, I just feel sad." That went on for years. I was the moody teenager. Puberty, all of that, anything we could blame it on.

[2:00] Mental illness run rampant in my family. Again, we could see it, but didn't. My dad's brother, who is very open about it, also has bipolar disorder. He, through various phases in his life, would disappear out of our realm so that we didn't know what was going on. He was the fun uncle. We never saw that there was a lot of mania going on, as kids.

Dr. Duckworth: [2:30] Was he open about it when you were a teenager? Did you know that that uncle had a challenge that he was living with, or not so much?

Nikki: [2:37] No. He was diagnosed but not in treatment and didn't fully understand or recognize the need for treatment. He was very artistic, enjoyed his mania. It was that type of thing. Later on during my college years, it was actually after I reached recovery that he started to see, "OK, there's more to life than this," and he started treatment.

Dr. Duckworth: [3:09] That's interesting. Your experience of getting into treatment motivated him.

Nikki: [3:15] Yes.

Dr. Duckworth: [3:16] Did he tell you that?

Nikki: [3:18] He has, yes. He actually said to me, "I want to be like you, Nikki." Amazing to hear.

Dr. Duckworth: [3:27] Amazing to hear. In what way did he mean?

Nikki: [3:32] He meant the stability, he meant the...I don't know if you'd call it success, but the overall happiness that I had found, the peace I had found in my life, that's what he was looking for as well.

Dr. Duckworth: [3:47] Isn't that great?

Nikki: [3:50] Yes.

Dr. Duckworth: [3:51] How old were you when you would say you got into that state where you can have that conversation with him?

Nikki: [3:57] I was about 25. I went through a solid five years of I would call it hell, misery. Then finally found the right meds, found the right doctor, not in that order, and found my way towards recovery.

[4:20] I would say after that, finding NAMI. I was probably at about 80 percent, I found NAMI. That really pushed me further in that I was be able to talk about it, I was able to share my story as an In Our Own Voice presenter and really found that 100 percent where I was comfortable in my own skin.

Dr. Duckworth: [4:44] That's beautiful. The right treatment/medication/psychiatrist made a big difference for you, but you didn't consider yourself fully in the recovery zone until you took on this additional challenge which was finding places to talk about it.

Nikki: [5:02] Yeah.

Dr. Duckworth: [5:03] Is that accurate? How did you find NAMI?

Nikki: [5:06] I found NAMI, I was dating someone for a short period of time, a med student, who you would think would be educated in mental health, you would hope would be educated. After hearing I had bipolar disorder, I got that phone call of, "Oh, I don't think I can deal with this," and he walked away.

[5:31] I sent him an educational email. [laughs] Then I got online and was just like, "I've made it to the other side. People need to know what this is like. People need to understand that there's still life, that this isn't a horrible sentenced misery by having a mental illness."

[5:58] I came across NAMI. I came across In Our Own Voice and said, "I want to tell my story. I want people to hear how this really works." I found Leon Judd at NAMI Metro.

Dr. Duckworth: [6:12] Yes, a classic.

Nikki: [6:14] Yes, my mentor. He sucked me in. Before I knew it, I was volunteering full‑time with them and keeping a job full‑time [laughs] at the same time, which was a lot. [laughs]

Dr. Duckworth: [6:28] Were kind of work were you doing at the time?

Nikki: [6:29] I was a legal assistant and office manager. After college, I had a Bachelor's in Social Work, I knew I was not ready to go back for my master's. I had struggled through the worst of my illness during my bachelor's degree.

[6:47] I took on a job not knowing what I could do with myself as a receptionist at this law firm. 14 years later, I was still there managing the office. That helped on my journey to recovery, too.

Dr. Duckworth: [7:05] Stability.

Nikki: [7:05] The stability, the routine, the having a job and feeling like there was a purpose.

Dr. Duckworth: [7:12] Did you share anything about your mental health with the office? Some people do, some people do not. This is one of the arched questions of life.

Nikki: [7:22] Yes. As I went along, once I was more involved with NAMI, I actually started to share based on the NAMI Walk. I wanted donations. [laughs] They knew of my involvement, they knew how much NAMI meant to me.

[7:40] At the same time, it was still an environment where, "Oh, that person's crazy. You don't want to deal with them. Oh, ignore it. They're just nuts." It was a very stigmatizing environment. It was not really recognized that I was one of those people.

[7:59] I was one of the people who had a mental health condition that they were talking about, but at the same time, they did on the surface know that I had a mental health condition.

Dr. Duckworth: [8:08] That's interesting. They considered it a we‑they problem, but you were on this side of the line. It sounds like you thought of yourself as being on the other side of the line and on this side of the line. How might you think about it? I don't want to put words in your mouth.

Nikki: [8:25] I recognized where I had been so that I was someone who had a mental health condition. I still had it, of course. I still took medication every day. I was able to empathize with people who had been there.

[8:45] At the same time, as long as I was taking care of myself and treating myself, self‑care, all of that, I was typical, what people would consider as the average person. It was a little bit of straddling the line there.

Dr. Duckworth: [9:06] I see that. Let's talk about how you found In Our Own Voice. What was your first In Our Own Voice presentation like for you? I bet you remember it.

Nikki: [9:18] I do. When I found In Our Own Voice, I went through the training. Leon sent me pretty early on into the In Our Own Voice training. That was my first experience being in a room with people who I knew had mental health conditions.

[9:38] Obviously, there's people who you have no idea, in your life, being one in five, but this was people who recognized it, people who understood it, and people who could talk about it.

Dr. Duckworth: [9:50] In the training.

Nikki: [9:51] Yeah. I remember sitting in the hotel room that night at the training and everybody joking about their experiences in the hospital and where they had been. It was that dark humor that people outside wouldn't understand.

[10:05] It was like, "Wow, I found my family here. People get it." That was a huge eye‑opener to me. Then I did my first presentation at one of NAMI Metro's general meetings. We always started out with the friendly audience from NAMI.

Dr. Duckworth: [10:24] This is NAMI Metro Detroit?

Nikki: [10:27] Yeah. My voice shook through the entire presentation. I have never had a problem public speaking. I love doing it, but somewhere telling my own story, it was...It was people I knew. It was people I was comfortable with, but my voice shook through the entire thing. I remember that.

[10:53] It was liberating afterwards. It was like, "Wow, I just shared this. I may have made a difference to somebody." All of that empowering feeling, but at the moment, it was absolutely terrifying and made me feel so vulnerable to put it out there.

Dr. Duckworth: [11:14] The reception in that friendly, family audience?

Nikki: [11:21] The people who came up to me afterwards, and especially family members, with, "You gave us hope," or, "We hope our child can become like this. We hope our child can reach the point you're at," was just heartwarming. That's where the empowering came in, knowing I can make a difference to somebody.

Dr. Duckworth: [11:41] That's a big day. You present your story, you tell the whole thing because it sounds like at the work environment you had, that wasn't an integrated experience. You come to the NAMI Walk and they would say, "Here's 20 bucks."

Nikki: [11:56] Exactly.

Dr. Duckworth: [11:56] It was more like that, like [inaudible] . We'll come back to your family and how your family understood all this, but I then wanted to ask about your next In Our Own Voice presentation.

Nikki: [12:10] My next one, I would say it got much easier once I realized my purpose, which was to make a difference, to give people hope, to let them see that this is the face of mental illness. This is the average person who is living with a mental health condition.

[12:39] Once I felt all of that, it was easygoing because it just felt like, "This is what I want to do. This is my mission."

Dr. Duckworth: [12:51] It's great to have a mission, isn't it?

Nikki: [12:55] Yes.

Dr. Duckworth: [12:58] It sounds like you did a presentation that was not within the family. You went to another workplace. Do you remember where it was, how it was? It sounds like you it was easier for you that you had would integrate this into your sense of purpose and you overcame anxiety through that.

Nikki: [13:17] I know there were two presentations early on. I don't remember which was the second or third, but one was for nursing students at a local college.

[13:29] To me, that was huge because again, coming from that med student who drove me to NAMI to be able to help people going into the medical field understand what this is like and to field their questions about, "What is the one thing you wish people who treated you had known?" that was huge to me.

[13:55] I was going to say the other experience was with AP Psychology students in a high school, high school seniors, who they had just taken their AP exams. It was a couple weeks before school got out. They were totally checked out.

[14:15] I did this presentation and was able to stand there and say, "I was in your seat. It was the end of my senior year where I knew there was something wrong."

[14:25] To feel like I was able to reach those students at that point in their life before they went off to college, before they had the problems that I may have had while I was living on my own away from my family. Those were both really powerful experiences.

Dr. Duckworth: [14:40] Did they rally for you. Did they get engaged?

Nikki: [14:44] They did. I learned one of my most important In Our Own Voice lessons, which was the student who sat almost turning his back to me with that completely disengaged look, who wanted nothing to do with this.

[15:03] Real tough‑looking kid who came up to me afterwards and said, "My girlfriend is struggling. I think she might be depressed. What can I do?" I realized that the ones who were most resistant to it, who didn't seem to want to hear it were the ones you were touching the most.

Dr. Duckworth: [15:19] That's beautiful. How are the nursing students with you? That was your first one, the nursing students [inaudible] .

[15:27] [crosstalk]

Nikki: [15:27] Yeah. The nursing students were really receptive. They really wanted to hear about the experiences we'd had, whether it being treated for psychiatric or just general experiences. I had had experiences in hospitals where soon as they hear there's a mental health condition, they disregard anything physical you have come to the hospital for.

[15:53] They were interested in that. They were very interested in how they could support someone or recognize that there were symptoms and how to help them despite those symptoms. The biggest thing for them was that it humanized it for them because so many people are just a name on a medical file. That humanized what mental health was all about. They were very receptive.

Dr. Duckworth: [16:27] When people with a mental health condition show up in an emergency room and say they have regular requirement [inaudible] , the people who ignore that, did you get through to them, that you can have appendicitis and bipolar disorder?

Nikki: [16:38] I think it did. With a lot of them, it really resonated and was like, "OK, we need to focus on more than that first list of medications they give us when we realize that there's bipolar disorder, or depression, or whatever it may be."

Dr. Duckworth: [16:55] That's great. You did these two right out of the gate. The first one, you had a lot of anxiety even though it's within the family. Then it sounds like that was the breakthrough for you and you're not terrified driving to the nursing students or the high school. You're completing a mission at this point. Do I have it right?

Nikki: [17:18] Definitely.

Dr. Duckworth: [17:19] That's great. How many have you done? How many In Our Own Voice presentations?

Nikki: [17:24] Jeez. I don't know if I could count. [laughs] My affiliate out in Illinois did not use the In Our Own Voice program, but in Michigan, it was a very strong program. I was doing it for about seven years so I became a state trainer. More presentations than I could count.

Dr. Duckworth: [17:50] 5 a year, 10 a year, 20 a year?

Nikki: [17:56] I would say probably about 20 a year.

Dr. Duckworth: [17:59] Wow, times seven years. We're well over a hundred.

Nikki: [18:03] Yeah.

Dr. Duckworth: [18:02] We can safely say you've done well over a hundred.

Nikki: [18:05] Yes.

Dr. Duckworth: [18:05] Do any of them stand out to you?

Nikki: [18:08] Mm‑hmm. My favorite presentation was going back to that high school year after year.

Dr. Duckworth: [18:16] In the same high school?

Nikki: [18:16] Yeah. We did it every spring.

Dr. Duckworth: [18:20] Did your psychology teacher said, "Please come back"?

Nikki: [18:20] She loved us. We did it every spring. She formed a walk team with her students. She was a huge champion for NAMI. That was my favorite presentation, to be able to do year after year. Part of it was that it touched my heart, that it was that point where I needed the most help and wasn't getting it. To be able to possibly prevent someone from going through those five miserable years I went through meant a lot to me.

Dr. Duckworth: [18:56] That's quite beautiful. In Our Own Voice, you worked with another individual?

Nikki: [19:00] Yeah.

Dr. Duckworth: [19:01] Was it the same partner or did you swap it up?

Nikki: [19:07] No, we swapped it out. There was one other state trainer. When I was doing state trainers, it was the two of us all the time. For presentations, we mixed it up. We tried to go as diverse as we could, whether it was male‑female or Black‑White, our stories varied a lot.

Dr. Duckworth: [19:32] Let's talk about your family. You struggle through these five years. You get to this place where you find the right doctor and then it sounds like you found the right medicine. Do you mind saying what the doctor did that was helpful to you?

Nikki: [19:50] The doctor listened to me. Making me a partner in my recovery was the most powerful thing. I had the one who blamed my mother when I was little. She was too coddling. I had the one who gave me medications until I was so overmedicated I was a zombie.

[20:19] I had gone from doctor to doctor. I finally found this doctor who she listened to me. When I said, "The side effects are too bad. I can't take this," she helped me find other medications. She helped me find a therapist who let me know who I was again as opposed to feeling like I was the illness.

[20:48] I think just that listening, that letting me know that I knew myself better than she did. She knew the medicine, she knew the illness, but I knew how I felt. [laughs] An experience that I will never forget was actually my doctor's partner. I had been crying all day and absolutely a wreck.

[21:19] My mom was worried about me. She was over at my apartment. She called the doctor. My doctor was off. It was a weekend. One of her partner's called back from the emergency line. Her partner was a very young, very small woman. You would never expect her to be tough. She told my mom, "You've got to get Nikki on the phone."

[21:46] Then I finally picked up the phone. She reamed me. She started into me with, "You understand every time you stop taking your medication, it's going to get worse. Every time it gets worse, it takes away from the trajectory of your life." She really let me have it.

[22:10] That was the first time that I was like, "Whoa, I need to stay on these medications." I never stopped taking my medication after that day.

Dr. Duckworth: [22:19] Whoa. Tough love was positive for you.

Nikki: [22:22] [laughs] Yes. It was one of those things because I expected to be coddled, I had been coddled all along. I expected the, "Come on, Nikki, you got to take your medication," but she just let me have it. Hearing that I had control of the trajectory of my life and that every time I stopped, I could make it worse was what sank in and I never stopped again.

Dr. Duckworth: [22:52] It's a great story. What medicine at the end of the day was helpful to you, or is it not that simple?

Nikki: [23:02] It's a lot of medication. I still take Lamictal, Abilify, BuSpar, and I take Xanax at night. It's still a lot of medication, but it's the cocktail that works. I would not mess with it. [laughs]

Dr. Duckworth: [23:33] Yes, I hear that. Did you take lithium? What was your experience with that?

Nikki: [23:34] I took lithium for quite a while. I was on a combination of lithium and Depakote, which was wrong. [laughs] My experience with lithium, between the lithium and Depakote, I gained 100 pounds in a year. I was basically flatlined. I was falling asleep in class. I got in a car accident falling asleep at the wheel. It was way too much for me.

[24:13] Couldn't laugh, couldn't enjoy anything. I wasn't crying, but I wasn't feeling life.

Dr. Duckworth: [24:21] With flattening out the mood swings, and it flattened out everything.

Nikki: [24:28] Absolutely. Personality, everything was gone.

Dr. Duckworth: [24:33] You mentioned you have a family. Let's talk a little bit about that and your travels with this illness and the family [inaudible] .

Nikki: [24:41] My mom is my hero to this day. She was there for me every step of the way. She is the one who, if I could say, forced me into treatment. I finally went to my first psychiatrist because my mom was begging me to and I decided to humor her. I truly didn't believe anything was wrong at that point. I didn't understand that there was something wrong.

Dr. Duckworth: [25:19] How old were you?

Nikki: [25:20] What?

Dr. Duckworth: [25:20] How old were you when you first sought help?

Nikki: [25:23] I was 19 when I first sought treatment.

Dr. Duckworth: [25:25] As you look back on it, do you think you have lack of awareness, do you think you were stubborn, do you think you were ashamed, do you think it was a combination of all three? How do you make sense of it that you look back on it?

Nikki: [25:37] I think it was very much a lack of awareness. When I look back, I had a terrible fear of driving by the time I was 17, 18 years old because I would get these thoughts in my head, like, "Oh, maybe you should just turn the wheel and go off the road. What if you just hit that tree?"

[25:58] It never, ever occurred to me that this was not a typical thought, this was not something that other people were thinking while they were driving. All this wackiness, the mania, the depression, I was able to rationalize in my head. When I was crying and crying, it was like, "Oh, my friend said this, and that's why I'm so upset."

[26:27] It was never really the cause. It was never really anything that was that extreme that I should have been feeling that way. I think it was a complete lack of awareness.

Dr. Duckworth: [26:41] How did you develop awareness? Not everybody does. I love talking to people who did develop it because this is one of the great unresolved questions [inaudible] .

Nikki: [26:56] It was a combination of things. When I was first diagnosed, my mom finally talked to me about my family history, it made sense. First having that word put to it of bipolar disorder helped me to see that, "Oh, OK, there's something legit going on. This isn't just me being strange and me losing my mind. There's something seriously happening." That helped a little bit.

Dr. Duckworth: [27:31] The family history? The family history helped?

Nikki: [27:36] Yeah. Knowing my grandma suffered from extreme depression, my uncle with bipolar disorder, it all started to make sense. Knowing that family history. Then I still didn't recognize that this was a lifetime thing. That I don't know if it was a lack of awareness or stubbornness, but the whole, "Take my medicine until I felt better and then stop the medication."

[28:09] I think a lot of that was I recognized there was something wrong at that point, but I didn't want to deal with it.

Dr. Duckworth: [28:19] In your early to mid‑20s still?

Nikki: [28:21] Yeah. That went up to about 24, is when I started taking my medication consistently.

Dr. Duckworth: [28:28] Your mother outlining the family history with risk was very helpful for you?

Nikki: [28:34] Yes.

Dr. Duckworth: [28:37] Not everybody does that for their kids.

Nikki: [28:40] No. She was so supportive. When I had panic attacks, she took me by the hand and helped me pull through things. She raced up to, I was at Eastern Michigan University and she was living in White Lake at the time. She would middle of the night go flying up to Ypsilanti to save me from myself.

[29:11] Bring me home, do what needed to be done, then continue to pay for an apartment for me up at Ypsi, because they knew how much that independence meant for my psyche, even though I was spending probably four or five days a week at home. I needed to know I had that space that was mine and I was still a grown‑up. She was a champion throughout.

Dr. Duckworth: [29:38] You have your own family now. Is that what I heard you say earlier?

Nikki: [29:43] I do.

Dr. Duckworth: [29:43] Tell me a little bit about that, if you would.

Nikki: [29:47] I really had sworn off dating, wanted nothing to do with it because I felt like I was a wreck. How could I bring someone else into this? I finally started to date. It was after I found NAMI, really when I got the confidence and was able to speak about it openly.

[30:08] I met someone online. I spoke to him on the phone a couple times and I was like, "All right, I'm just laying it out there because I'm not going through this whole like, "Dump her because of mental illness," again."

[30:22] We hadn't even met yet. I told him about my bipolar disorder. He said, "I have a couple questions for you." He said, "Do you receive treatment?" I said, yes. "Do you take medication?" Yes. "Would you ever stop taking your medication?" No. "OK, then we're good." That was that.

[30:44] It's taken some learning on his side to understand the moods and the breakthroughs that I still get, but he is 100 percent supportive. Does the best he can throughout. I have three stepchildren. I had decided earlier on that I did not want to have children of my own because of a fear of passing on the illness.

[31:14] The idea that it would be so hard to watch someone else struggle through it. I didn't think I could handle watching someone else and knowing I had given it to them. I didn't want kids of my own, but he had three children. The youngest was 16, so they weren't really kids. They were teens.

[31:34] About a year after we got married, my oldest stepson went through bouts of depression. Wound up hospitalized for a bit of time. It was like, "OK, I didn't think I wanted this," [laughs] but at the same time I found I spoke the language.

[31:59] My husband would hear something, be offended by it, get angry about it, and I'd be like, "Whoa, no. What he's saying is this. He speaking depression. Give it a minute." I could communicate with them in a way their father couldn't.

[32:13] A little bit after that, my youngest stepdaughter was diagnosed with anxiety, and she has some pretty significant anxiety. She would have a panic attack and be curled up on the floor in the kitchen and I just lie down next to her, and be able to talk her through it. It was again, I spoke their language and I really feel like I was put in this family for a reason.

[32:42] I feel like I've been able to support them in a way that their father probably couldn't on his own, but was able to with me explaining along the way.

Dr. Duckworth: [32:57] That's really beautiful. Now, you're a force for good within the family because you have been there. That's a profound level of service and giving, right?

Nikki: [33:13] Yeah. They are very open about it themselves that they receive treatment. They take medicine, they go to therapy.

Dr. Duckworth: [33:21] Talk about the cool stepmom. Let's go, right? Their greatest vulnerability, you've done 100 plus in our own voice prison. You know everything. You're a role model, a clinician in the family's [indecipherable] but the ultimate peer support of love.

[33:44] You speak the language. You know all about it from the inside‑out. My guess is you've gotten quite close to your stepchildren through this.

Nikki: [33:52] Absolutely.

Dr. Duckworth: [33:52] It's a real power that you have.

Nikki: [33:55] [laughs] Yes, I love them to pieces.

Dr. Duckworth: [33:58] It's such a service. Now, may I ask, were you ever hospitalized?

Nikki: [34:01] I was not. I went through psychiatric emergency room a couple times. My mom was a very strong advocate for keeping me out of the hospital. She felt it would be really bad for my psyche based on my personality. Whether that was the right answer or the wrong answer, I can't say, but they never did admit me, because she was so strongly against it.

Dr. Duckworth: [34:31] Would you say your proper diagnosis is closer to Bipolar 2?

Nikki: [34:36] Yes, it is.

Dr. Duckworth: [34:37] It is, OK. Did you ever have any problems with substances? Is that an area of interest through self‑medication?

Nikki: [34:46] That was actually very interesting because I was in a team group, a youth group that was about teaching peers about substance use prevention. I had been so conditioned throughout high school being part of this group and being a leader in this group, that it never really occurred to me to turn to substances.

[35:13] It's because I was so used to preaching the evils of it. [laughs] No, that was never really an issue for me.

Dr. Duckworth: [35:21] How about your culture, faith? Did that influence your experience in any way?

Nikki: [35:29] Yes. I am Jewish. I was very active. President of the youth group, worked in the office and high school. Just very, very involved.

[35:44] My senior year of high school, the end of the year when I started feeling some issues, I went to my rabbi and asked him for support. He gave me a book to read about spirituality and sent me on my way. At that point, I really lost all faith. I had felt like my temple was my family. I no longer felt comfortable there.

[36:19] I remember I used to go to services every Friday night, and I remember the last time I set foot in my temple for several years.

[36:30] I had been in the middle of services, I had this feeling. I didn't feel anything, the spirituality was gone. I started to cry, and I walked out a services. It hit me afterwards that no one followed up. The people who had been my family didn't know what to do with me. I never heard from anyone from the temple. No one ever, "Hey, what's wrong? Are you OK Nech?"

[37:04] I probably went about five years before setting foot back in that temple. Eventually, I came back around, but I don't feel that my religion played any positive role in my recovery. That's, after I found my recovery, that I found religion again.

Dr. Duckworth: [37:26] Would you say you're a religious family now? Are you more culturally Jewish? How would you think about it?

Nikki: [37:32] Yeah, my husband grew up quite religious. I have followed in his path. We follow Conservative Judaism. He goes to the synagogue every week. I am not as involved, but I do celebrate all the holidays, like go to services periodically. My religion is a big part of my life now.

Dr. Duckworth: [38:02] May I ask you a question? What's your definition of recovery? I ask every person this question and I know it's a hard question.

Nikki: [38:11] Sure. My definition of recovery is living the life you want to live. I think that can mean so many different things. For some people, it's getting out of bed every day and taking a shower is as far as it goes. For me, it's being able to go to work every day, to have a family, to be content, happy, and at peace with my life.

[38:43] I really think it's just living that life you want, whatever that looks like to you.

Dr. Duckworth: [38:50] Do you feel that the openness we see in our society is changing? Do you feel it the way I feel it?

Nikki: [38:58] I do. The fact that my stepdaughter at 17 would walk around her high school in a NAMI t‑shirt from the walk. Things like that. I think it gives me hope to look at the younger generations.

[39:14] I think there's still a whole lot in the older generations that can change, but our younger generations, I don't know if they fully understand it, but they're talking about it. That's a big, big step.

Dr. Duckworth: [39:29] Yes. Nikki, I don't think I could have written this book a decade ago. Couldn't have gotten 100 people to use their names, but I did perceive that something was different. I've picked up on the same thing.

[39:43] [background music]

Dr. Duckworth: [39:43] When your stepdaughter wears a NAMI shirt to high school, she just wears it like it's Eastern Michigan University, or the Detroit Tigers, or anything else.

Nikki: [39:52] Yep. She's actually told me that classmates have come up to her and, "Oh, what is that? I could use some help, too." [laughs] She'll tell them, "Yeah, I have anxiety." It's a beautiful thing.

Dr. Duckworth: [40:12] It is changing, and you're helping to change it.

[40:15] [background music]

Dr. Duckworth: [40:15] This has been "You Are Not Alone, Voices of Recovery." For more episodes of this and other NAMI podcasts, visit nami.org/podcast or check wherever you get your podcasts. For more episodes of this and other NAMI podcasts, visit nami.org/podcasts or check wherever you get your podcasts.

[40:42] For more information on the book, "You Are Not Alone," visit nami.org/youarenotalonebook. This is NAMI's first book, but it won't be NAMI's last.

[40:53] This podcast was produced by John Moe and Jordan Miller for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. We get engineering support from John Miller.

[41:02] I'm Dr. Ken Duckworth, and thank you for listening.

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