Lorie’s Story: Meet One of Our New Staffers!
My name is Lorie A. Altvater, and since June 1st, I am the new connection lead and office admin here at the Del-Mor NAMI office. I am also a facilitator for several of the new hybrid Connection Recovery groups. The up to and including part of the job description is whatever needs to be done that day. I’ve become quite adept at cleaning, sanitizing and wiping all touch surfaces lately too. 😊 My main project personally is the update of the NAMI resource database. It is a very Zen project. I am really enjoying the job because it is challenging, yet rewarding. It allows me to dust off and use the soft communication skills I learned in the corporate world.
I am coping with the quarantine surprisingly well. I am an animal lover and most of my quarantine buddies have fur and four paws. I have gotten to spend a ton of time with them. Fortunately, my favorite hobby is to restore, refurbish, remodel, repaint and rehab inside living spaces, so I am also never bored. Since the quarantine, my bathroom is completely remodeled, several rooms repainted, and packing boxes from when I moved in 9 years ago are finally unpacked. That was kind of like a second Christmas! I have three remaining indoor projects: finish cornering the kitchen floor, strip and refinish the upstairs hallway, power wash and repaint the basement, and then once it cools down, finish the attic for the library and art studio. I also have three outdoor projects in planning, should I ever become bored. Let’s just say, my house got a thorough spring cleaning! Zoom was my friend for when I needed human interaction. Basic caretaking helped too, a healthy diet and scheduled medication, exercise, routine sleep and waking times, meditation and prayer. It kept my mind, body and spirit level during the stay home period.
I first came into contact with NAMI as a consumer through the Connection Recovery group in a time of family crisis. It was there I learned about Family-to-Family classes to help me become the best possible support for my child, and then the Peer-to-Peer class helped me start to unpack my own mental illness and the way it impacted our relationship. As I became stronger in my mental health journey, I felt compelled to reach out and help others through my own experiences. That is when I trained and became a Connection Recovery facilitator. In the 5 years since, I have helped to train cadets in CIT, became an adult presenter for ETS, and have become an advocate for better mental health care, visiting our state and local representatives to share the importance of parity in treatment of mental health conditions with the same respect as any other chronic health condition.
NAMI has brought me a tremendous awareness of who I am. Society has come a long way since the days of “we don’t talk about that,” to actively discussing the taboo “elephant in the room” that is mental illness, to creating a space where it is safe to explore this amazing condition that is bipolarism. I have gone from a feeling like a victim with a lifelong illness that I did not ask for nor deserve, to being an ally to my brain, and appreciative of my mental health condition and the strength it brings with it. I can see the advantages of being a diagnosed bipolar! It allows me to advocate to bring change to our mental health care system and to challenge the false belief that somehow we who live the experience of mental health conditions are broken beings beyond trust or repair. I owe a lot of that journey to NAMI and to a great counselor who taught me coping skills early in my diagnosis. Always be your own best advocate because only you know where you have been.