My journey with mental health became apparent during the most challenging chapters of my life. I was in seminary as a novice, beginning a decade-long journey to become a Roman Catholic priest. My entry was during the pandemic which totally affected the academic and apostolic process. We weren’t able to live and work as prior classes of novices did. We were cooped up in the same home (just as our chickens were). But regardless of the new challenging circumstances, I still wanted to enter seminary but I wasn’t prepared for what was about to come.
I missed my family, friends, and home, which was 340.2 miles away in San Jose. I loved meeting people and building relationships but quarantine kept us sheltered in place. I began to feel unfulfilled, irritable, and just plain miserable. My warning signs started to appear. During social hour over the course of weeks, I would steadily increase the amount of alcohol I was consuming, and during spiritual reading, I would sneak off and smoke cigarettes. These coping mechanism helped me feel better in the past during other challenging times, so I resorted to using them again. Though I wasn’t using these substances to the extreme, I got to the point when I knew something wasn’t right.
One evening I learned there was a possibility my mom had ovarian cancer. My world was turned upside down. No amount of prayer would make me feel better. I went to my spiritual director, mentioned feelings of depression and anxiety, and asked if I could see a therapist. Without skipping a beat, he replied, “Well, I don’t think you’re crazy. Are you praying enough?” Truthfully, I could always be praying more but that wasn’t the point. There’s a certain amount of praying we can do, but sometimes we’re called to take action to answer our own prayer(s). I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate my vocation. I informed my mom and she supported me wholeheartedly. I decided to pursue counseling psychology and incorporate spirituality into a mental health practice. I knew firsthand how costly it is to leave mental illness symptoms unaddressed.
The incredible thing is, my life-altering experience in seminary led me to NAMI-Santa Clara County, specifically through the doors of the FaithNet program. FaithNet did the type of work that my spiritual director and I needed—that so many others also need. I could help be that change. As my time with NAMI-SCC continued, my role expanded; I became the Social Media Coordinator and then Community and Media Relations Liaison. I began to get more involved in political, industrial, and community-based settings. I shared my story. I connected with high school youth. I worked with tech companies giving presentations to hundreds of employees. I helped build relationships based on one goal: better mental health for all.
Now, as I write this letter, I’m 839.7 miles away in Seattle from what I’ll always call home. The good news is I’m returning to this journey of priesthood with greater self-awareness, renewed passion, and a new community of friends, coworkers, and family all cheering me on. I’ve learned to advocate for others and by doing so, learned to advocate for myself. And that is one of the greatest gifts NAMI-SCC has given me. Thanks to the relationships I’ve built, I’ve grown and become who I am today. I’m only one person but with NAMI-SCC, I felt like a force of change—in my life and in the lives of others. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. Every day a person gets the support they need, we get one step closer to that dream of better mental health for all.
You’ve helped NAMI-Santa Clara County serve 12,000 people (and counting)!
Your contributions have helped provide:
17 Family-to-Family 8-week courses
9 Peer-to-Peer 10-week courses
64 participants in our Community Peer Program
70 matches in our Community Peer Program
268 support group meetings
15 FaithNet presentations
In Our Own Voice presentations for 835 attendees
Ending the Silence presentations for 1679 high school students
…And SO much more!
With help from friends like you, NAMI-SCC has been dedicated to serving the community through education, support, and advocacy for 48 years. In 2023, NAMI- SCC served over 12,000 people through educational courses, community presentations, Helpline assistance, peer support, and support groups—all with zero fees.
Research shows that 1 in 5 people are currently living with a serious mental health condition and it is likely that you have a friend, family member, or colleague who is experiencing this. Show them you care by donating to NAMI-SCC.