Lunch on Saturday was the whole reason for my trip. Marty and I were seated at the head table, along with Joseph and another staff member of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (his organization), and I was sitting next to a woman I didn't recognize, so she said she was there because of her husband (sitting on the her other side), who turned out to be Senator Nelson from Nebraska. When it was his turn to speak, he went on and on and on about all his accomplishments in mental health, most of which had only tangential connections to our issues, although I was glad he mentioned probably Nebraska's most prominent consumer/survivor activist, J. Rock Johnson, and it was clear from what he said that they had had many interactions. When he'd finally finished, the two of them couldn't get out of there fast enough, which I found rather rude!
I had said to Marty that I wasn't sure what I would say, but felt confident that it would come together, but first, when I was introduced, the whole room erupted in chants of "Judi!...Judi!...Judi!..." which went on and on, and everyone rushing forward with their camera phones so that I felt I was surrounded by the paparazzi! When I finally got to speak, I was close to tears. I talked about how important this movement has been in my life, transforming me from someone who saw herself as a helpless "mental patient" to someone who was part of an important movement for social change. I talked about the work we had done, and what we had accomplished, but also how much more that needed to be done, and how gratifying it was to see so many new people getting involved, bringing in their own ideas and new energy, but recognizing that were building on what had come before. And I talked about what my life has become now, and how I saw hospice as the model of what we wanted the mental health system to do--putting the person's needs in the center and helping to figure out how to make those ideas and dreams happen. I certainly never could have made this trip without all the support I got from hospice both here and in Omaha.
I'll write more about the trip home (which went quite smoothly), but right now I'm tired and ready for bed. Amazingly, I'm not extraordinarily tired, and when Nancie was here earlier I even felt strong enough for a shower.