Monday, August 29, 2011

Erase the Stigma

This past weekend Allen and I traveled to St. Louis where I was the keynote speaker at a conference titled Erase the Stigma.  It was an amazing weekend and we were able to meet a lot of people who came from that area and volunteered all week on our build.  They are a great group of people and I am so honored to call them all friends.

The conference went great.  I was a bit worried when we went up to the venue on Friday so Allen could acclimate himself a little and he had a really hard time there.  He couldn't stop scanning, standing against the wall, and had a hard time staying here.  However, he did it and then Saturday he was so much better.  I was so proud of him!  He is facing his fears everyday and conquering them!!  (I do have to say though, that Allen is not cured of his PTSD, it is something he will struggle with the rest of his life.  However, he is in a really good place right now with it.)

The morning started out with me sharing the same speech that I shared on Capitol Hill last May.  I had made a few minor changes, but it was basically the same speech.  I have given several versions of this speech now and I never know whether it will make me emotional or not.  Saturday, it made me extremely emotional, and it was difficult at times to get through it.  I think that was due to the fact that Allen and my sister Chris were there as well as Kevin and Emily Smith, John Steed and many other friends.  Normally when I speak, it is only in front of strangers.  However, it still went well.  We then moved into a more relaxed, conversational part of the session.  Tom Smith, of the Karla Smith Foundation, interviewed me and it went really well.  I was able to relax and just be myself during this part of the morning.  At the end of the question and answer period, Allen even got up and spoke for a few minutes.  It was great to see him step out of his comfort zone and share a little of his own story.

The afternoon was another question and answer period.  I really liked that there were such a variety of people there.  I was able to speak to caregivers, family members, veteran's, consumers, medical providers and people who work at the VA.  It was great to get to give my opinion on what medical providers could do differently to make it better for caregivers and the patient.  I felt it was all really well received as well.  We had lots of positive feedback.

I want to specifically thank a couple of spouse's who came to hear me speak.  Rayshell and Olivia-having you both there to hear our story was very special to me.  Please remember that I am always here for both of you!!  Olivia, thanks for driving so far!!

A great resource for any of you helping to support a loved one with a mental illness, including PTSD, please go to .

Even Now......Gina

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