2013 NAMI Convention: My interview with Jeana Wheeler

left to right, Jeana Wheeler, Peter Nordbye, Blythe Nordbye, Michele Veenker

left to right, Jeana Wheeler, Peter Nordbye, Blythe Nordbye, Michele Veenker

Jeana Wheeler, a prominent bipolar advocate and founder/ facilitator of Bipolar Recovery in Portland, Oregon, attended the 2013 “Together We Can Make A Difference” NAMI National Convention at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. I interviewed her about her life and what she experienced  at the convention.

Jeana was born in Portland, Oregon, and went to Goble Elementary. She became a student at Rainier Junior High and High School. Her mother and father divorced when she was an infant, and she was raised by her mother and stepfather. She says she grew up around a lot of drugs and alcohol, but there was an abundance of love in her family. When I asked her what shaped her life? Jeana  replied, “It was being surrounded by pets and animals and the taking care of them that attributed to my caring and reaching out to individuals in my Bipolar Groups.”

Jeana  volunteers to help others challenged with mental conditions and also works as a Peer to Peer Specialist, a Lecturer in a Psyche Ward, and In Our Own Voice speaker for NAMI.  She has spoken to an audience of 110 plus at Timber Lake Job Corps. When she attended the NAMI Convention from June 27- 30 she said that she didn’t know quite what to expect. Yet she and three other members of NAMI Clackamas County: Michele Veenker, executive director, Peter Nordbye, Board member, and Blythe Nordbye, Secretary “divided and conquered.”  They took in a scope of classes and reported back to each other.

Since Jeana was respected for her work in the Clackamas Community, the NAMI Clackamas Board paid for her registration and hotel for 4 days. She says that the conference was high pressured and somewhat stressful. “It was intense, but there was a good deal of information and the hardest part was that I had a hard time  picking and choosing events cause there were so many,  you couldn’t choose them all.”  An example of the sessions she attended on day 1, are related here: Part 1: Advances in Promoting Recovery 9:30-11:00 AM. Part 2: Reviving Plan Old Therapy Promoting Mentalizing in Relationships 12:45-2:00 PM, Education, Training, and Peer Support Center Program Director’s Meeting 2:45-4:45 PM, Laughter Yoga 4:00-4:45 PM. Speeches by NAMI Board Candidates 5:00-6:00 PM and Orientation for First-time Attendees 7:00-7:45 PM.

She showed me a picture where the sessions were held at Lila Cockrell Theater. Above the auditorium one could view a mosaic designed with 450,000 tiles. In the brochure she pointed out the Awards given. There was an Outstanding NAMI State Organization Award given to NAMI Wisconsin and an Outstanding NAMI Affiliate Award given to NAMI Austin amongst others.

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