Our Silent Struggle

Written by  in category 
October 15, 2018
danei edelen

You or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five individuals wrestles with a mental illness.1 Of the 43,576 individuals in Brown County2, nearly 9,000 struggle with mental illness. But within our often silent struggle, there is hope.

My name is Danei Edelen. I am Executive Director of the newly formed Brown County Ohio affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is the largest grassroots organization in the country whose members are individuals that live with a mental illness, like me, or someone who lives with someone who does, like my husband. NAMI calls this “lived experience”. NAMI provides support, education, advocacy, and public awareness so that all people affected by mental illness can build better lives.

A Common Struggle

In his book, A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction, Patrick Kennedy talks about how we need to begin to tell our stories. “OUR SECRETS ARE our most formidable adversaries. The older I get, the more I see secrecy as ‘the enemy within,’ which blocks recovery not only for individuals but for society itself.”3

My Journey

Like Patrick Kennedy, I have a mental illness journey. Mine began when I went five nights without sleep, started hallucinating and went into psychosis. It felt like I was walking through water, everything was transparent, my sight & hearing were a little distorted, my body felt heavy. When I walked by my bathroom sink, I smelled lavender. My walk-in closet was as cold as a Butcher’s walk-in freezer. At night, I would feel this warm caress, it felt nice, at first but then it got so hot I felt like I was burning alive. I thought I heard voices whispering. In the midst of this, my parents came down. Immediately, my mother knew something wasn’t right. That night when I couldn’t sleep I confessed to her that I didn’t know what was real and what was not. She said, “It’s time to go to the hospital.”

At my first visit with my psychiatrist and therapist after I got off the Behavioral Health Unit, my psychiatrist said something interesting: “When it comes to mental illness, it all comes down to sleep.” I didn’t know it, but that lack of sleep caused the hallucinations and psychosis. The portion of my brain responsible for sleep was not working. But, the portion of my brain responsible for REM sleep was working. I was dreaming with my eyes open!

Now what? My life was no longer the same. Have you ever seen “French bleu cheese”? It’s crumbly and has veins of blue mold throughout—useless. I was so afraid that that was my brain. I was afraid I had lost my IQ, my intelligence, my ability to write and collaborate with others. My goals were to go back to school and go back to work in marketing full-time. How was I ever going to make life normal again?


That’s the question many of you have as well. Obviously, there is more to my story. But that is for another time. What I want you to understand is this: NAMI can help.

Through the NAMI support groups you will find people like yourself. People who have similar stories. You will realize you are not alone. Through the NAMI classes, you will learn not only the science and the biology behind having a brain disease but also learn the psychological stages related to living through a traumatic event. You will come to understand that it is “normal” to experience such negative emotions like denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. You will learn about emotional “triggers” and positive methods of coping with them.


Today, we are living in an epidemic related to addiction, mental illness, stigma, silence, suicide, and death in this county. But there is hope. Like cancer decades ago, we need to begin talking about these issues. Let’s end the silence.


  1. Any Mental Illness (AMI) Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2015
  2. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/browncountyohio/PST045217
  3. https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5953221.Patrick_J_Kennedy
Originally published in the News Democrat on October 10, 2018. https://www.newsdemocrat.com/
Danei Edelen

Danei Edelen

Danei Edelen lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Danei is Executive Director of the newly formed NAMI Brown County Ohio affiliate. She also is a mental health columnist for the Brown County News Democrat and The Clermont Sun. She has a bachelor's degree, over 20 years in marketing, serves as Mental Health Advocate for her county. She is also a NAMI presenter for the Southwestern Ohio chapter speaking to groups of all ages to help end the stigma. Danei enjoys, reading, writing, exercise and learning about nutrition.

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