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  • Amy Payne, CPS

From Then to Now...Tanner Keim

Typically, when I write this article, I focus solely on one individual’s unique journey with mental health conditions or dual diagnosis. (Dual diagnosis is having a mental health condition and addiction).  There is something that I have not written about before that I would like to share with you and that is that these conditions do not just impact the individuals that have them. They can be very devastating for their family and friends as well.  I hope that this article will help anyone who is affected by these conditions know that there is help and hope!

 

Tanner Keim has been a member, volunteer and now an employee of The Gathering Place.  Having had 4 years of heavy methamphetamine use, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit disorder, he is grateful for being alive. 

 

When Tanner was 17, he started to notice things happening in his mind that weren’t quite his normal.  Tanner wanted to become a teacher and after high school, he went to college where he excelled.  After 2 years though, he felt that he needed to leave because his mental health was deteriorating.  Tanner tried to self-medicate with meth but became addicted.  He found himself living a life of hell.  Tanner had several unsuccessful attempts at rehabilitation before finding the help he needed at Trempealeau County Health Care Center.   After leaving Trempealeau, he went straight to a group home and then to a sober living house.  These places helped him to maintain his sobriety as he became acclimated back into society.  This transition process was very important for his success. The Brown Co. CCS program also greatly supported Tanner and his parents. 

 

Tanner got to the level of wellness where he could and wanted to “give back”.  He knew how much peer support helped him through the rough times, so he started to volunteer at The Gathering Place.  It wasn’t long before people noticed his ability to reach people.  He was soon offered a job.  Now Tanner has his own apartment and is busy helping people while maintaining his own recovery journey.  Today Tanner takes medication, eats well, uses coping skills, and receives peer/family support which helps him to work on his recovery. 

 

While working at The Gathering Place while Tanner was a member, I had the pleasure of meeting his mom, Jean Keim and later his father, Dave Keim.  They had come in several times in support of their son, and I saw how this helped Tanner.  When I decided to write this article, I wanted to hear about their perspective on being family members of an individual with mental illness and addiction.  

 

Jean said that Dave and her first learned of Tanner’s mental health conditions when he came home from college.  It took them a while to get him help because he had not told them what he was experiencing.  When they found out about his struggles, they brought him to a doctor who gave him his diagnosis.  She said that they felt that Tanner didn’t want to accept the diagnosis.  It was a scary time for all of them.  The meds had side effects, and he was suicidal.  Jean said that meth changes the brain so much. They were terrified that they were going to lose him. They were at a loss as to what to do.  Some people told them to, “Just cut ties”.  Jean said that they just couldn’t.  They could never give up hope that their son was still in there somewhere. 

 

Jean said that his doctor told them about NAMI Brown County.  NAMI is the acronym for National Alliance on Mental Illness.  NAMI offers an 8-week course called Family to Family which is a class designed for the families who are living with the traumas of mental illness.  Attendees learn about the disorders and can form connections with other families going through the same things. Jean and Dave saw how much the course helped them and other families that they wanted to “give back”.  They decided to become educators of the course.   Jean recalled one couple whose marriage was on the line because of the chaos and because of the resources and support that NAMI offered, they are still together.  

NAMI also recognizes that ongoing support for family members is so important in getting through these tough times that they offer a family support group which Jean and Dave attend.  It meets on the second Monday of the month at 6:30 pm. 

 Jean and Dave learned that NAMI

offered a similar course but for Tanner.  NAMI’s Peer to Peer course is designed for individuals who live with mental health conditions.  Just like Family to Family, it teaches the individual about their condition and things that they can do to help themselves.  One of the big things that they can learn is that they are not alone and that there is always hope. 

 

NAMI Brown County

1234 Main St Ste 11

Green Bay, WI 54302

(920) 371-0961

 

Jean said that they also found out about The Gathering Place, where Tanner could receive peer support. The Gathering Place has helped him to believe in himself and has provided him with an opportunity to give back as well. 

 

Both Jean and Tanner have messages for anyone going through this… 

 

Jean says, “You are not alone.  Don’t ever give up hope! Other people have walked on this journey and support is extremely helpful.” 

 

Tanner says, “The Gathering Place is a place where you can feel welcome and safe.  It is a place where you can feel comfort to work on figuring yourself out.  Lots of people here understand through their own experience.” He says, “Strategize before catastrophize.  Sometimes, it gets worse before it gets better and it is not enough to just love yourself, you have to understand yourself first.”

After this article was written, I sent it to Tanner and his family for review and approval before publication.  I have to tell you about something that hit my emotions hard when I got their feedback.

 

I am a person who lives with mental health conditions. Unlike many other illnesses, there is guilt and shame that come with mental illness and dual diagnosis. I have spent many years struggling with my own guilt and shame for things that my family endured due to my illness. I am also a parent of children that have mental health conditions.  I have experienced the fear and traumas that come from it on that level as well. I can tell you that when your child is ill and has a fever or throws up in your car from a stomach bug, it is not their fault. They were sick, right?

 

Mental illness is biological.  The person that is in the middle of a mental illness episode does not have control.  Mental illness is like a bully on the playground that pummels you down on a playground.  It is relentless and you need help from others to get through it.  It takes time, rest and in many cases, professional intervention.

 

When I talked to Tanner, he said that there was something that he wanted me to tell you about in this story that I had not captured.  That was that he has ongoing anger about what his parents had to go through because of the things that he did while he was sick.  

 

What I am about to say is in no way intended to minimize Tanner’s feelings. This is how he feels.  It is based only on my own personal experience and watching others who have gone through this. 

It has taken me a long time to realize that it wasn’t me that hurt my family but that bully on the playground. I had as much control over it as the child throwing up in the car. 

People that have mental health conditions, or dual diagnosis, do not just wake up one day and say, how can I hurt the people I love today.  When I am not ill, I wake up and think how I can make the day better for my loved ones.  It has taken me decades to learn to forgive myself.  I still feel horrible that they went through this, but I could not help it.  

 

In my opinion, Dave, Jean, Tanner, or anyone who goes through this, need a medal!  When I sent this to his parents for review, and after hearing what they had gone through, Jean said, and this is when I broke down into tears,

 

“Tanner is my hero.  He has concurred so much!”

 

I am so blessed and honored to be able to write these articles that share the stories of what people go through to get from then to now.  I know that each story that I hear renews my feeling of hope. 

 

If these articles move you in any way and would like to share that, please let us know at info@thegatheringplaceinc.org.   If you know of anyone else that could use a little hope, let them know that they are not alone.  There is ALWAYS hope!  Bless you all! 

 

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