Her Mental Illness Helped Her Become A Leader

Her Mental Illness Helped Her Become A Leader

It has been two years since Stephanie Appleby first shared her story with Metro Woman. Stephanie is the Director of Marketing and Development at NAMI Southwest Missouri and has been employed with the not-for-profit agency since 2014. Prior to joining the staff, Stephanie volunteered with NAMI coordinating fundraising activities and events. Today, Stephanie’s passion for helping those who suffer with mental health diagnosis has grown to induce change within her community.

Stephanie has come a long way, but she never wishes to forget where she started. Her journey began when her symptoms of panic disorder, anxiety, and agoraphobia started to take over her life. She had suffered from anxiety as a child and teenager, but never to the degree it had manifested in adulthood.

“I couldn’t leave my house,” Stephanie recalls of the darkest days of her illness. “I felt hopeless and imprisoned within my own home. And mind”

Agoraphobia is developed from someone who suffers panic attacks and fear open spaces. Stephanie’s diagnosis of agoraphobia impacted her to the extent where she was homebound for 14 years. One year of that time she was confined to her bedroom. “I had to eat the same thing every day, three times a day. I was afraid I would have a reaction to different food and the result would be me having to leave my house to get medical attention.”

Stephanie’s darkest days were centered around her disease. She recalls missing much of life when the agoraphobia controlled her. “I missed school events and recitals. My husband had to do everything with the kids. My husband had to be both parents.” Stephanie expresses deep mental and emotional pain, and wishes there were more resources and support for those homebound as she was. “Five members of my family have completed suicide.  I knew I would have to be proactive in my recovery to survive.”

Through support of family, friends, medication, and a therapist, Stephanie began her recovery journey in 2013. Since then, Stephanie has dedicated her life to fighting for those with mental health issues. She has many roles at NAMI SWMO including a community liaison to other agencies, political activist, grant writer, and strategic planner.

Stephanie is also a passionate voice advocating for mental health issues through her work with local media agencies, law enforcement, and political figures. She serves on Springfield City Council Personnel Board and the mental, homeless, and veterans court. Her passion extends to the homeless community as a mental health and homelessness correlate. “Who are we as human beings if we can’t acknowledge and aid in relieving the suffering of our neighbors? I have a mental illness: this could be me.”

NAMI Southwest Missouri continues to strive to help individuals and their families living with a mental illness through education, support and advocacy. Over the past four years Stephanie has worked to develop and expanded countless partnerships with local and national businesses, healthcare professionals, non profit agencies, and individuals within our community.  She has used her experience to help educate and bring a greater degree of awareness to people from her community to Washington DC. Find more information on the resources NAMI provides at namiswmo.com. Read Stephanie’s 2015 article at 417metrowoman.com/spotlight/NAMI15

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