Thursday, May 03, 2007

WILL I COME OUT?

Three years ago I moved from Florida to here on Little Clear Creek. I left people whom I had grown to love deeply when I left Florida. Leaving here I am leaving earth I have grown to love.
This Kentucky farm of over 120 acres is made up of woods, bottom land, a branch, a creek, waterfalls, mountains, hollows, flat places and steep climbs. A small house which I am told I should call a cottage is where Patty and I lived. She had overseen its being totally updated. There is a big old country barn, two other out buildings, and the best looking outhouse in these parts. I worked outside on the land here and never went to a meeting about anything. I know my friends in Florida find it hard to believe that for three years I have basically been quiet. Just mowing grass and playing in the dirt. Learning to simply be.
Now I am moving to North Carolina. Patty’s father died and her Mom has asked us to come there to be close to her and help her. So I am leaving Little Clear Creek for Glen Alpine, North Carolina near Morganton where Patty was born.
Will I be quiet there or will I come out of retirement and resume the advocacy I did for years in Florida? I will come out. I will try to take the advise of my friend Jan who said to me that more people heard me when I was not so loud and angry. I got other advice from Norma, Anita, Val, Jana and Steve. All of my friends know I sometimes listened, but mostly I advocated from my own heart and soul the things I believed in deeply. Maybe I should have listened better, but then I would not have been Ed.
Who will I be in North Carolina? The same Ed I was in Florida and in North Carolina before that. You see I have been in North Carolina as an advocate before. I worked with NCAMI when I was there and I was one of the founders of the statewide consumer’s group there. Also it was the state that NOVASTAR, the nonprofit we worked under in NC & FL, was born in. So in a way I am going home. The state where I began my first efforts as an advocate for folks like myself who have a mental illness.
In Florida during the Service Planning days we talked about a person’s “Long Term View“. In North Carolina they have what they call a “Person Centered Plan” which asks for “Long Term Goals”. It is a funny form because it also asked other people about the person’s “Long Term Goals” including the professional with the piece of paper.
I have never really understood what people thought was the real starting point if you wanted to help me. The whole country after 9/11 was talking about wanting to be safe. After the tragedy in Blacksburg, the real issue is how to make a campus safer. Well, if you want to help me or any other person with a serious mental illness we must first feel safe with you and we must also be in a safe environment.
Safe is the beginning point of being able to dream again. There is no need of asking me all these questions to put on your forms if I don’t feel safe with you. I will either not answer them or make something up. If you want the truthful answers to your questions, then you must build a natural relationship with me in which I feel at least some degree of safety.
Why am I saying all this now? Because the world is full of talk about how to make the world safe from us and I want to make the point we have always had to fear the world. You want to help us. Help make us safe. See us as fully human. Support our families and loved ones. Build a mental health system both private and public that is available, affordable and covered by insurance just like any other illness.
Will I be quiet in North Carolina? Hardly. Will I try to not be too loud yes, but I will be heard even if it changes nothing. You can count on that.

You can email me at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com

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