Collateral Support: Awarding Merit🎖and Citing Examples of Excellence in Friendship

I have not given enough credit to my friends whom have witnessed the most, and been exposed to the most traumatic times in my health and healing. I was never very healthy, as far as my mental health was concerned, in undergraduate school, but there were definitely spikes in health and craters in terms of setbacks, that I can easily reference and remember without pause. Forgoing chronological order, I wanted to present these awards for excellence in friendship in a sequence that highlights each friendship’s contribution to my recovery. Indeed, our friends will not always be around, they might choose to leave our personal struggle, and we must wish them well in their endeavors. This article will honor all friends, both past and present, people I still communicate with, and those that have moved on for their own health and healing. While I cannot cite all acts of friendship, and overtures of support, I will do my best to acknowledge the most important events as they unfolded during my recovery as well as the key players that made those moments possible.

The first award goes to J. Grasso🥇. I lived with Mr. Grasso as an undergraduate in the dorms and off campus in Binghamton. I am awarding Mr. Grasso this first award for his insight into human connections, and isolation from mental illness, and hospitalization. During my most difficult hospitalization at the Binghamton Psychiatric Center, when I thought all of my friends had disappeared, graduated, or wrote me and my condition off, there was Mr. Grasso at the gates of the unit. Mr. Grasso’s decision to visit me in the hospital, and bring another friend who I was afraid of due to my paranoia symptoms, Mr. Grasso bridged the gap between the bleak final days I spent in the community, and set the stage for years of friendship, and connections with other people to come. I would like to thank you Mr. Grasso for your courage to be present with a friend who couldn’t be present in return and your insight into what a friend needs, even when diagnosable and certifiable, Mr. Grasso’s dedication to friendship goes beyond my initial hospitalization, and his non judge-mental yet insight oriented approach to building and maintaining connections continues to make me feel comfortable with him as a primary support in my recovery.

The second award goes to M. McFadden🥈. I also lived with Mr. McFadden as an undergraduate in the dorms and off campus in Binghamton. I am awarding M. Mcfadden this second award for his persistence in being present with me and dedication to preserving my orginal and chosen character albeit my symptoms. When I was first hospitalized I couldn’t speak cogently due to word salad and other verbal deficits in language. Regardless of my speech issues at the time, and my paranoia which corrupted my capacity to trust my supports, I was never scared of Mr. Mcfadden. His disposition, questioning, but truth-seeking, made me feel like I could always reach out to him when I needed support. Indeed, I was on the phone with Mr. Mcfadden just about everyday in the hospital trying to follow the rabbit hole of my demise in the community and figure out why I decompensated so quickly. I have been very critical of my friend Mr. Mcfadden, and in return, I have been graciously awarded the same critical feedback of my own behavior. This feedback, and ongoing daily support if necessary. Is the self-reflection only a trustworthy friend can bring someone they care about in their recovery. Thank you Mr. Mcfadden, for always being there, regardless of the circumstance.

The third award goes to M. Guerriero🥉. Mr. Guerriero was another suite and housemate of mine. Mr. Guerriero, like most of my friends, graduated before my illness took full form. The reason I am awarding Mr. Guerriero the third award is because of his uncanny and unwavering ability to interpret my unique behavior in the most non-threatening and well intentioned manner as possible. Mr. Guerriero not only brought the re-balancing scales to every avenue of my life he passed through, he did so with the spirit of a friend who was never tired of re-discovering the original pull that made the friendship so worthwhile and original. Indeed, whatever the situation, whether it be visiting me in the hospital hours away from his home and work, or creating a a safe space for re-introductions with his charm, and ability to recall moments of happiness among the entire group, this award is well deserved. Thanks to Mr. Guerriero’s ongoing support and friendship, new moments aren’t saddened with the wayward past, erred grievances aren’t aired all evening, and historical problems don’t become the focus of the gathering, Instead, all things, past and present are up for celebration, speaking to the richness, and value he places on life and its moments.

The fourth award goes to S. Johnson🏅. Sabrina was my supervisor at MHA, and is my friend, mentor, and life coach. Sabrina has taught me more about the system, friendship and being a support to someone with lived experience, than anyone I else I know. With Sabrina’s support, I never felt like just another sick person or felt like my future was limited in any which way. Sabrina taught me how to re-capture my chosen personality, and let it shine through regardless of the stigma that can make people with a diagnosis second guess ourselves, including the supposed health of my moods and the congruency of its affect, just to cite a few of the many aspects of my mental status I became more comfortable with after knowing Sabrina. Thanks to Sabrina, I finally felt the benefits and sanctuary of mutual support. I continue to look forward to everyday’s full experience because of the attitude and stance Sabrina instilled upon me regarding how to live with a diagnosis.

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