December’s Volunteer of the Month is Bob Tettlebach. Bob volunteers in several aspects of NAMI MC’s programs including as a Connections Facilitator, Peer-to-Peer mentor and an In Our Own Voice presenter. He has been an active volunteer for NAMI MC since 2016 and devotes many hours to helping support those living with mental illness and educating the public about what it is like to live with a mental illness and achieve recovery. We are so grateful for all of Bob’s hard-work and commitment! Thank you Bob!
Read on to learn more about Bob and his work at NAMI MC.
What motivated you to start volunteering at NAMI MC?
Hiding my depression in the Air Force for 23 years really made me feel isolated and alone. NAMI has helped me deal with my major depression for many years. NAMI’s newsletters, emails, Peer-to-Peer class, and Connection Support Groups have provided me with knowledge about my illness, provided me with practical coping skills, and made me realize I’m not alone. Now that my depression is in remission, I wanted to give back to NAMI as a way of saying thank you for their help and as a way to help others.
How long have you volunteered with NAMI MC?
I started with being an In Our Own Voice presenter in August 2016. Since then, I have become a Connection Support Group co-facilitator and a Peer-to-Peer co-teacher. It might seem like I’ve been volunteering longer since I’m always at the NAMI MC office for one thing or another.
What’s your favorite part about volunteering with NAMI MC?
The people. I have met some amazing people through my volunteer work with NAMI MC. From the staff to the interns, to my co-facilitators, co-teachers, and co-presenters, I have learned a great deal – about mental illness and about life in general. But best of all, it has been my interactions with group members, class students, and IOOV audiences. I have met so many resilient and hopeful people living with mental illness and in various stages of recovery. My volunteer work is very humbling and motivates me to be the best I can be.
How has volunteering at NAMI MC impacted your life?
I have found my volunteer work to be very therapeutic for me in my recovery from major depression. Being allowed to speak with inpatients and outpatients living with mental illness has reminded me of my lengthy journey of recovery and how much work I have put into my recovery effort. I was at rock bottom nine years ago as an inpatient myself, so visiting a mental health unit in the hospital reminds me of just how far I’ve come in nine years. As a Connection Support group co-facilitator, I have heard more profound statements from the participants than I can count. I have reflected on the thoughts shared by others and they have helped me see my mental illness in a different light and from a different perspective. What I used to think of as a curse, I now embrace my mental illness. Although it doesn’t define me, it is a part of me that I have learned to live with and make peace with. My NAMI MC volunteer experiences, in conjunction with my work with my therapist, have made me think of my mental illness as a blessing. Without a mental illness, I would never have put in the work to understand myself as I do today. Nor would I have been able to volunteer for the NAMI MC programs that I so enjoy.
Do you have any advice or insight for those interested in volunteering with NAMI MC?
My best advice is to make sure you practice self care. If you can’t take care of yourself, then it will be challenging to give your all as a NAMI MC volunteer. Secondly, do what you enjoy. Do you like speaking to groups of people about your experience with mental illness? Do you enjoy leading groups in discussion? Do you enjoy teaching? Give considerable thought to how your volunteer work will impact your recovery process. Will talking about your dark days be a trigger for you, or will the time commitment bring on anxiety in you? You know yourself best, but discuss your thoughts about volunteering with your therapist and family and get their opinion. Having their support is always nice. Having considered all of these things, go for it. May it be as rewarding for you as it has been for me.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
Early in my Air Force career, I had a by-name request to be a pilot for the reknowned Hurricane Hunters.
When you’re not volunteering, what do you like to do for fun?
When I got out of the hospital nine years ago, I was looking for a hobby to pursue. An artist friend of mine suggested I do fused glass. I had no idea what that was, so after some extensive research, I started taking classes at a studio in Kensington. I’ve been doing fused glass for nine years now and have made some beautiful pieces of what I call functional art (e.g. plates, serving platters, and bowls). A year ago, I forayed into the world of glassblowing and love it! I’ve made some very nice flower vases, bowls, and mugs – along with a lot of “floor samples” – pieces that have fallen on the floor. Most recently, I have started doing glass mosaics. My creative ideas ebb and flow, but right now I have several projects in mind that will keep me busy for some time.