Friday, April 17, 2015

My Amazing Life Compliments of #HealtheVoices15

I don't even know where to start!

To begin with, it broke my heart to leave Thomas. He was extremely anxious and said he felt "empty" and it was completely heartbreaking to have to go. Fortunately he saw Dr. K. yesterday and got some counseling to get him through. I haven't talked to him yet today so I don't know how he's doing but I do know that my mom will spend some of the day with him and that will cushion the blow some.
As for me, spending yesterday stuck in a metal tube with wings for 6 hours was not my thing. Not at all. Several times I broke down in quiet tears on the plane as I thought about leaving Thomas and going to this strange land. I'm not going to lie, I was scared on so many levels. To leave Thomas, to leave the comfort of home in my small town, to fly across country alone, to stay in a hotel alone and to be thrown into a group of people I don't know at all...alone...all of it was terrifying. When I finally got into my hotel room I completely broke down and cried, called my mom and swore I'd never leave home again.

But then I freshened up and went to a nice dinner with my hostess from Janssen, Caroline Pavis, and a small group of other bloggers from many areas of health related issues. In that 2 hour time span as I listened to others tell their stories (they're not much different from the stories we schizophrenia caregivers tell) and I told my own, I found myself in a not-so-strange-land after all. I had taken my meds, though, so I was tired, not to mention I'd been up since 3 am, so I got my scrumptious dinner to go and stumbled up to my room. I was starved and I was tired. I couldn't get to bed fast enough!
Then...then I woke up this morning. I sat on my couch and looked out the window at the city and slowly my courage and confidence came back to me and I decided to go for a walk. Along the way I happily found a Starbucks and had a triple shot latte and I meandered down to the ferry dock and learned that I could take a ferry across the Hudson to the World Trade Center! It felt absolutely crazy as I contemplated going all by myself to NEW YORK CITY!

I came back to my room and got ready and texted Caroline and asked about breakfast and she told me Janssen would buy my breakfast so I went down to the restaurant and had breakfast alone. Now, before you think how sad that is that I ate alone, let me tell you that it wasn't at all. It was liberating! I sat at a table by the window with sweeping views of Manhattan and I ate some eggs and gagged down a kale and spinach smoothie LOL. It was horrible but healthy. Then I got up and headed out to catch the ferry to the city.

I cannot tell you how much my experience changed me. I went directly to the World Trade Center Memorial (pictured here) and I must have spent a half an hour or more just taking it in and reading the names of the lost souls from that fateful day on 9/11. I wandered all the way around the entire fountain and snapped pictures and took videos. I was enthralled!
After that I wandered the streets of the city and looked at memorials from 9/11 that, among other things, included actual missing persons pictures and messages from that day. They took my breath away!

Now I am back in my room on the same couch on which I cried last night and today I am a FOREVER CHANGED woman, my eyes dry now and wide open to the possibilities that await me as the HealtheVoices conference starts tonight with a cocktail hour with networking and a nice dinner in the Manhattan ballroom at the top of my hotel.

I cannot thank Caroline Pavis, Janssen, EverydayHealth and all of my hosts enough for giving me this most AMAZING opportunity. Unwittingly they have made it possible for me to realize my long time dream of seeing NYC and the World Trade Center Memorial and in addition have provided me with the opportunity to meet other amazing healthcare advocates from around the country and learn valuable things that I can take with me into the future as the author/owner of Understanding Schizophrenia. There are great things to come for this blog and for me as an advocate for Thomas, for schizophrenia, and for all of you. The future it bright and shiny. We all have something wonderful to look forward to. I hold in my hands great hope for a better future for schizophrenia advocacy and education.

(Janssen Global Services paid for my travel expenses for the conference. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.)

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