By Darlene Wetzel, Pat Root and Gizem Yagci
In November Kisha Miller wrote her story for this newsletter, ending on a positive note, but in January she completed suicide. Rather than print her story, three NAMI volunteers who knew Kisha in different ways have chosen to honor her by sharing their individual perspectives.
Darlene Wetzel: I had the pleasure of mentoring Kisha when she took Peer-to-Peer class at Avalon Housing. She was a delight to have in class because she was open and honest about her personal struggles. She asked questions and her genuine caring was always encouraging to the other participants. She was eager to learn new information about mental illness and quick to apply it to her own life experiences.
Kisha brought humor to some very difficult material. She wrote, ”NAMI helped me to accept myself for who I am. They told me to give myself a break. And that’s what I try to do. I looked forward to class every week and I learned a lot. . . . Love and laughter filled our class with joy. An experience I’ll never forget and will cherish forever.”
Kisha had bad times, too. She sometimes struggled with dark thoughts and feelings. Life was not easy for her. During one of those dark times Kisha ended her life. So full of life and joy, my friend, in a moment of despair, gave in to the dark urges to permanently end her suffering.
I was so sad to learn of Kisha’s death. She was selected from our class to be trained as a mentor/facilitator. I was looking forward to mentoring a Peer-to-Peer class with her.
With time, I’m beginning to focus on the delight in meeting and sharing time with Kisha. I wish it had been longer but I’m thankful she came into my life.
Pat Root: In August Kisha was one of five students in my training of Peer to Peer mentor facilitators, which lasted for three intensive days.
She had a big personality and at first presented herself as very confident. That changed as she got to know the other students, all of whom were college graduates pursuing professional lives. This caused her to convey a sensitivity and diminished confidence.
She talked about how she felt, which endeared her to all of us. Kisha had an exuberant sense of humor and a passion for human interaction. She did well in the class and was selected to help lead the Peer to Peer class at Avalon Housing, where she was once a student.
As I write this, that class is under way without dear Kisha.
Gizem Yagci: I had the privilege of meeting Kisha during a state training for the Peer-to-Peer class. We connected pretty quickly due to the intense nature of the training, the material we covered, and mostly because of her openness towards me.
What I loved about Kisha the most was how real she was. She was so brave and incredibly vulnerable. She was also joyful. Her presence, laughter, and vibe filled any room she was in. She loved giving “Kisha hugs.” She loved inspirational quotes and messages and sharing them with people.
Despite her struggles with mental health, Kisha gave me hope for smiling and being optimistic. Seeing her always put a smile on my face. In her story she wrote, “There’s no running and there’s no hiding from yourself. Wherever you go, there you are. So I’ve decided to be nice to myself and give myself all the love and encouragement that was lacking. . . . I refuse to suffer in silence any longer.” These words perhaps explain why she was an inspiration to me.
Kisha was vocal, outgoing, open, and frank. I am deeply saddened that she is no longer with us. I feel honored to have met her and will always cherish her memory.
In conclusion, we often refer to ourselves as the “NAMI Family.” Kisha was an important member of our family. We are quite sure that she benefited from being part of our organization and we, of course, benefited from her emotional generosity and courageous spirit.