An afternoon in our hometown
My sister Valerie Van Galder (chief co-conspirator, Depressed Cake Shop) and I spoke for the first time together at The Orange County Mental Health Awards Luncheon yesterday in Costa Mesa, California, our hometown, and a place neither of us have lived since high school.
We were both nervous and excited when I arrived at Val's house in Santa Monica. The two of us spent the evening weaving the stories about the seven years we spent caring for our father into one coherent message. Our dad -- our hero -- had suffered a psychotic break a year after our mother's death. We talked about the twists and turns of our journey, and where that journey eventually brought us; Val to the Depressed Cake Shop, and me to my work with Cooper Court and Emerald House.
We spoke to a group of people who have been in the fight for a long time to help combat the stigma, fight the system, and survive mental Illness. The awards were presented to a professional working in the business of mental health, a volunteer who is making a difference in the lives of those who suffer from the disease, and a participant in recovery who is celebrating their journey back. It was a humbling experience to be asked to speak to a group that is doing such amazing things in Mental Health education, advocacy, and survival.
Val and I have a very long, sad, complicated, scary and sweet story from the seven years we fought along side our sister Marci Margolin Finger to try and help our father find his way back to his three girls. The system was not friendly, the treatments were terrifying, the outcome was devastating, but we survived together as three sisters. To be able to stand on that stage with Val, chart our journey, see the places it has taken us and things we have accomplished made me proud, hopeful and invigorated to keep fighting the fight.
Thank you to Pam Presnall, director of development, MHAOC, for giving us the opportunity to be there together.