For many years now, I have been involved with organizing and promoting benefit events to support the mission of a private not-for-profit organization who serves those who are challenged by mental illness. I have learned that for some, recovery comes quickly with the proper support and therapy, while for others, recovery or a sense of normalcy, could take years. Some of what I have learned about mental illness has come thru the words of those who are willing to share their personal story and their struggles with mental health issues.
Recently, I was honored to bring in former professional basketball player Christopher Herren, as a keynote speaker for our event. Chris grew up in Fall River, MA and was a local basketball legend. His innate talent for the sport was amazing to watch and something that his community had never seen before. He quickly rose from a high school standout to a highly recruited Division One player, and then went on to play professionally in the NBA. Chris shared his amazing life story with us and described, how his experimentation with drugs, hugely affected the decisions and the path he traveled for the next ten years of his life and permanently altered his life today. He described how the words, “It’s not going to kill you” tempted his decision process in college, and how the influence of others he associated with, perpetually rooted him into a destructive, downward spiraling fate, in which he felt was no escape. It took more than one bad experience, more than one close call and more than one brush with death before Chris realized that his addiction was ruling his life and he no longer wanted that life.
While Chris was sharing his story, one could hear a pin drop in the room because his story was that awe-inspiring. One could not believe that someone could experience all that he experienced, and that he not only survived, but has turned his life around today and is on a much different path. Chris now makes it his role in life to share his story, in hopes of helping others.
We can learn so much by listening to what others have to say, hear what others have been thru in life and understand what life is like for someone who is affected by mental illness, disease, disability, physical impairments or addiction. People bear different challenges in life, but one cannot truly understand what life is like for others who are dealing with unfortunate circumstances, until we take the time to listen and learn. To look at Chris today, one would see a very handsome and physically fit young man with a killer smile. But if you didn’t know his story, you would not truly understand what has made him the person he is today. I am so thankful to have learned from him and others who have shared their story with us in the past. We all may look similar on the outside, but the journey of what has been happening to each of us on the inside, is what formulates our life and our true path.
Take the time to learn from others as you will find it to be riveting, awe-inspiring, educational and helpful to you personally, in your association with others, dealing with your friends and family and may even help you in formulating your path in life which can sometimes be a long and windy road.