It was last October when I stood at my mother's bedside as I knew she was leaving this world and said, "I'm gonna run the NYC Marathon in your honor!" It had always been a dream, but actually completing a marathon was something I imagined only others could accomplish. My mom, Gail Liker, as I had told her after completing my first half marathon, had taught me by example what it meant to face adversity- with grace, humility and a sense of humor! It was my mom's fight against mulitiple medical illnesses and mostly her toughest battle against Bipolar Disorder (Manic/Depressive illness), that taught me to believe. My mom might have rather put it in terms of a great R&B lyric, "Aint no mountain high enough, aint no valley low enough, aint no river wide enough, to keep me..." from doing what I gotta do!
Suffering with Bipolar Disorder much of her adult life, and living on dialysis the last 9 years of her life, made it hard for my mother to function in day to day ways most of us take for granted. Yet, my mother found and expressed immense gratitude for the simplest and most important things in life- an awesomely beautiful sunset, a great soulful song, and mostly the joy of connecting and laughing with all people, her family or those she had just met.
It was my mom's strength and courage to persevere that inspired me to train to run 26.2 miles in a few weeks and to raise funds for the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is a national organization that supports families affected by mental illness and specifically focuses on removing the stigma that sadly still plagues those suffering with psychiatric disorders.
It is my hope that, unlike when I was growing up, we today can create a world where there will be no shame in openly talking about the challenges of suffering with an illness such as Bipolar Disorder. It is critical that we educate ourselves, our children and those around us about the biological nature of these diseases.
I am amazingly grateful for all of you who have already supported me on this journey and tribute to my mom who taught me that the greatest gift in life is acceptance of oneself and of others. So, in my mother's honor, I ask that you support NAMI in any way that you can- perhaps with a donation, or by reading and sharing information from their website or passing along an inspiring story about someone dealing with a mental illness.
Many thanks for your support,