One in four is challenged with a mental illness, and one in 17 is challenged with a severe mental illness.
I am that one. Hi, I’m Eve Reiland.
In 2010, I triggered with Functional Neurological Disorder and PTSD. Before becoming mentally ill, I was an online designer, social media guru and nationally-syndicated blogger. After the trigger, I suffered incredible memory loss, and could no longer communicate or understand what was being said to me. My cognitive abilities took a major hit. Adding to the alarm, at that time, I was having up to 50 seizures a day and experienced severe pain.
Today, I still live with severe mental illness. Most days I still have seizures. Every day I need help with my self-care. The difference between 2010 and now? I have Hope. Community and Understanding.
NAMI Fresno programs taught me how to live a far better quality of life. They helped me create a support network with peers and friends that is still in effect today. Because of the tools and skills I learned, I am alive today. I live a far better quality of life, today.
When Chris Roup at NAMI Fresno approached me a couple of years ago on sharing my lived experience with law enforcement and first responders, I was terrified. Make no mistake. Sharing about my 5150 and other traumatic experiences to people in uniform was not something I’d ever expected to do. Certainly, not in 2014 when I first learned how to share my story through the Each Mind Matters training. At that time I wasn’t sure I could make it through the weekend class much less stand up in front of you tonight.
I was determined though. If my experience could help break stigma, create awareness and acceptance in the community and, maybe, be of help to even one peer out there … then it would be worth any discomfort and anxiety experienced.
And over the course of two years, I spoke to many in crisis intervention training. It was an incredible experience and even helped me work through the trauma of my own 5150 experience. Since then, I’ve become far more confident in sharing my story. I’ve had countless soul to soul experiences with peers and family members since then. I’ve also gone on to become known as an Autistic activist fighting for rights of Autistic people worldwide.
But here’s the thing, in my activism work, I expect the efforts to not be felt or known until the next generation. I never expected to benefit personally and directly from my telling of my story. And yet, that’s exactly what happened.
In 2016, I was living downtown with Bill. In the early hours one morning, I woke up to the smell of smoke. It was coming from the townhouse that shared a wall with ours. There wasn’t a response from the neighbors, so 911 was called. Police officers and first responders were on the scene within five minutes.
Now, while this happened, the smell of fire became more and more pronounced. It’s dark – I’m surrounded by flashing lights and sirens, and I was so overwhelmed I felt an Autistic meltdown coming, which – once triggered – is not something I can control. And truth be told, my mental stability was already not good at this time, and this event was triggering severe paranoia and PTSD symptoms. Including flashbacks to my childhood, when one of my parents caught fire while cooking dinner.
While i was trying hard to mask and control my anxiety – and not doing a very good job at it, one officer gently approached me and guided me to a quiet place where I felt safe and could take a seat. His body language and everything about him was different from my other experiences in the past. He acted with compassion and empathy. In fact there was even more gentle guidance once the danger had been cleared that I could safely return to my home.
The next morning I was so astounded and impressed by my experience and the positive outcome, I had to message Chris Roup immediately to share my story with her.
This was a situation that could have gone really bad for me. Had a different officer been the one to contact me, my outtward behavior could easily have been interpreted much differently. The incident could have left me with even more trauma – and it didn’t. What I found out later was that this officer had gone through CIT and heard my story.
So I’d like to thank everyone who’s facilitated and participated in the Crisis Intervention Training. From someone who has felt the immediate benefit of it, THANK YOU. All your hard work and dedication is appreciated and I am so grateful to know it’s already working at breaking of stigma of mental illness, and providing better outcomes for my peers AND for the officers and first responders involved.
Thank you so very much.