Hope:(n) a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
My work of advocacy has taken me many places. I started out just wanting to tell my story to a few people in a class to help other people come out of hiding. Helping them move past the shame. And learn that recovery is possible. Over the years, I have moved from teaching a recovery class to talking to police officers & county sheriffs. And have been blessed to sit on the panel for The Kennedy Forum (yep, one of those Kennedys) and asked to talk to US Senator Dick Durbin about mental health funding.
Today, however, my speaking was not just about my life but about giving hope to a room full of people who probably don’t see hope in their line of work. Today, instead of telling my story, I had to follow a video that was a little dark, in mood. Today, I told a room full of lawyers and judges that the people they work with can live in recovery and most want to. Today, I looked into the stoic faces of lawyers and judges and gave them hope. The hope they needed to keep working & fighting for those living with mental illnesses.
Here’s my speech:
Good Morning. My name is Tiffany Brown Walker. I was asked to come and tell my story. I am what some would call a trifecta in the mental health world. My mom lives with clinical depression. I have bipolar disorder. And my son lives with bipolar disorder. I am not here to say that my life has been easy or that it has been the hardest thing in the world. I am here to share that despite the hardship of living with an illness (or having a family member with an illness), we have all persevered. My mom has her PhD & has worked my entire life. I have multiple advanced degrees & am currently working full time. And my son, graduated from college two years after his break & just started his first full time job. We have all persevered. My daughter despite living with me and my ups & downs, pushed through and is on her way to college to major in chemistry. We have all persevered. Despite the 6 years it took for them to find the right medicine cocktail for me, we still persevered. Despite the fact that we still tweak my meds based on my body changes, we still persevered. As a family, we decided that we were not going to let this pull us a part. We decided that we were going to be stronger as a result of it. And that we are. We cry less. We laugh harder. We love more. We value each moment.
I’m here to give you hope. I don’t know if I have done that. What I want you to know is that all that you do to help those people who don’t have the people supporting them like I do, is valued. They appreciate it. They may not be able to say it but they do. Let me say thank you for them. Your hard work isn’t for nothing. Without you, we (yes, I’m including myself) wouldn’t be as far advanced in the legal world as we are now. So, I want to stop and say ‘THANK YOU’ for all that you do.
Hope is seeing for something that isn’t there like it is. Well, I see that my life will be the life that I want. And I remember that every battle that I had before, I beat it so I can definitely beat the next one.
Thank you for your time.
I will keep fighting my battles. I will keep pushing forward even when the minions and demons are telling me to let go. I now know that the work that I am doing is not for me but those that come behind me. Hope is seeing something that isn’t there like it is. And what I’m seeing is a world where people who live with mental illnesses are treated like the people that they are and not be relegated to the illnesses that want to hold them back.