Love Wins (June 13, 2017)

Love Wins

On the morning of Sunday, June 12, 2016 I knew that life as I knew it had forever changed. There were text messages from family and friends asking if I was okay. There was a Facebook alert to all who lived in the vicinity of the tragedy could check in as “safe.” The news was on a constant stream about the tragedy which had unfolded in the early hours of that morning at Pulse Nightclub. I had an immediate flashback to Newtown, Connecticut where 26 children and adults were murdered simply for going to school.

It took me a few minutes to get my head on straight and realize this was real. My small town, turned big city, had been a target of the worst domestic act of terror in the history of the United States of America. Once I responded to loved ones and checked myself as “safe” on Facebook, I walked up the street to the First Unitarian Church of Orlando carrying some bottles of water. Little did I know there would be a need for hundreds of those bottles because people were lined up around the block to donate blood – a blood drive which had been planned long before the Pulse shooting.

On a mission which I can only describe as one of purpose and need to help, I went to Facebook to begin asking friends to open local businesses near blood banks for the use of air conditioning and restrooms (thank you Adult Literacy League and others!) and to begin collecting bottles of water I could hand out to those in line at the Church near my home. In the afternoon I drove to The GLBT Center only to see an immense number of people volunteering, dropping off food, needing trauma therapy, and looking for hugs. I was able to stay for about an hour giving hugs until my heart began to break and I realized I needed to leave so I wouldn’t need to seek trauma services for myself.

Heading home I gave myself a pep talk that my City needed my help and no matter what I will do whatever it takes to help us heal. I will not back down. Terror will not break me. I will stand up and do what’s right and show my friends, neighbors, and the world that Orlando does not bow to terror. We are unity. We are proud. We are love.

The next few days are a bit of a blur as I spent my days going to work and my evenings helping in whatever capacity I could. A lot of time was spent organizing donations of food and water. The outpouring of support from around the world was astounding! And the vigils, how do I describe the spontaneous vigil at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center? Tears. Anguish. Questions of how and why. Mixed in with all of this was an outpouring of love which I have never seen before. Strangers embracing each other. The best of Orlando came together to mourn and reclaim ourselves as a City you do not mess with. The vigil at Lake Eola a week later was more of the same on a much larger scale. I have never been more proud of the City of Orlando in those days.

It’s now been a year. A year of so many new things. A year of murals popping up around Central Florida dedicated to the 49 souls who lost their lives. A year of grief counselors being tested and rising to the occasion. A year of celebration to the first responders who saved countless lives and never stopped to think about what or why they were calling upon that night. A year of tears, smiles, and most of all love.

Last evening the City of Orlando and Orange County marked June 12th Orlando United Day. We, the citizens, were asked to volunteer, help someone in need, even take a shelter dog for a walk. Once again we came together at Lake Eola to remember and honor those taken from us too soon. It was an emotionally charged day with a beautiful purpose: keep showing each other and the world that Orlando is a city built on love and we will not let terror win. We will not only survive, but we will be better for it.

If you or a loved one are looking for some help in working through this or any other tragedy, please contact NAMI, Mental Health Association, or 211.

#WeAreOrlando #OneLove #ActLoveGive #OrlandoUnited


Written by: Lynn Penyak

Date: June 13, 2017


Love Wins (June 13, 2017)

Life Lessons

We all have to learn life lessons,

Through being a kid to teenager to adult.

We have good times and bad times,

we will all experience it.

Through relationship in family, friendship and companionship.

Its about growing and knowing you can live life lessons,

and learn from mistakes, that’s what it takes.

We all can have joy and fun, peace of mind.

We all are growing older,

and we can obtain wisdom

through daily faith with God’s help,

and continue direction with life lessons.

Yes, we will all experience it.

Life Lessons

Finding My Tribe

Growing up I was always a bit of an outsider from my peers. I had very pronounced issues with anger, trusting others and a tendency to dissociate from reality.  I was very different from most others around me. I knew it and so did everyone else. But somehow I made it through high school without serious incident or any diagnosis of illness.

After high school, I went to George Mason University where I changed majors several times. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. I drifted aimlessly without purpose or direction until finally settling on the study of philosophy.

Philosophy was something new to me. It inspired me because it asked questions that I realized I didn’t have answers to but were very important. Who am I? Why am I here? What ought I to do? These are questions central to the study of philosophy and they were also questions to which I needed answers to find direction in my own life. So that’s what I studied in school. Of course philosophy tends to raise more questions than it answers and so I still felt aimless and without direction in life.

I never graduated with a degree in philosophy. About mid-way through my Bachelor’s program I developed a severe psychosis. I was having paranoid delusions, completely losing touch with reality. I was taken to a psychiatric hospital in Arlington, Virginia where I was first diagnosed with Schizophrenia. My diagnosis changed several times over the following years to bi-polar and now to schizoaffective disorder which is essentially a combination of the two. I am now largely stabilized on meds, at least from the psychotic episodes.

I tried going back to school to finish my degree several times but just couldn’t muster the will to finish. I’ve spent most of my adult life feeling isolated, out of touch and distant from others around me just as I had as a child. I’ve worked on and off at various jobs for 30 years now, most of them lasting no longer than a couple years before I would lose all motivation and move on to something else. I’ve had a lot of difficulty forming long lasting friendships or relationships. And to this day I still live with my parents and have done so all my life.

I have felt at times like the world would be better off without me, like I just take up space or use scarce resources which would be better used by someone else. At times it was difficult to come up with a good reason to continue on in life. Perhaps I kept on just out of habit or perhaps because I had nothing better to do and the alternative seemed much worse to me.

About a year and a half ago I discovered NAMI. A counselor I was seeing at the time recommended them to me. I called the local NAMI office and started attending their free support groups. I became a NAMI member. I’ve started to make some friends and feel more connected to a community of people who share experiences similar to my own. I’ve become a NAMI volunteer and am gradually becoming more involved and more familiar with the mental health community in my area.

There is still road to travel ahead but finding a community of similar individuals has given me a sense of hope in a better future and has been an essential piece missing in my life. I feel less and less like an “outsider”. Where before I had no aim or purpose in life, I have come to know what it means to have some direction and a sense of connectedness. I feel like I have found my tribe. It’s a good feeling to belong somewhere and I am grateful to all the wonderful people who make NAMI possible.

Finding My Tribe

Heal the Wounds

If there’s someone in your life you are estranged from

You need to reach out to them.

Whether it’s a relative or friend

Or anyone, so you can make amends



You need to heal the wounds soon.


Life’s too short to hold grudges. You waste time

Leaving loved ones behind.


When you get hurt,

It’s not the time to go dessert

You need to forgive,

There’s nothing wrong with giving in.


Saying you are sorry,

Not letting pride and anger

Stand in your way,

Wasting every day.


Let it go and move on with your life.

Please take my advice.



You need to heal the wounds soon.


Don’t wait too late

That would be a mistake.


If the person goes away,

It might be too late

If you don’t make amends today,

Don’t let pride stand in your way.



You need to heal the wounds soon.

Heal the Wounds

Importance of Taking Your Medication

I am a minister and a mental health consumer/ advocate. From my experience it is important to take your medicine. It helps with your mental health as well as your emotional and physical health. It can keep you stable and productive. I encourage consumers to not mix medications with alcohol or illegal drugs as this practice will cause you to get sick and wind up in the hospital for mental and physical conditions. I did, at a time in my life, I had mixed drugs with my meds and learned the hard way- I got sick.

With God and my beliefs I got better. Let this be a warning. Don’t do what I did! I want you to have good mental health. Take only medications that are prescribed for you by your doctor. I believe that if you do this, and listen to my advice it can help you.

Always communicate with your doctor openly about your medicine and how you are feeling. They are there to help you mentally and physically.


By: Minister Gerald Israel

Importance of Taking Your Medication

Ode to Stigma Freedom


There once was a girl with curly hair.
And when you looked at her, she could feel your side-ways stare.
But in all truths, all she wanted was to be oblivious and unaware.
Unfortunately, feeling free to be herself was rare.
To other girls herself she would often compare.
And when school kids picked on her for her silence – no one said it wasn’t fair.
Yet in her eyes was a glow to know –
The freedom of spirit and joy from her woe.
So she let her heart sink…
And began to think.
If only into Stigma Freedom she could shrink!
What a glory of glories for all who are Stigma Free, she thought.
And in this moment, she realized all was not lost!
So she picked herself up – and dusted off her smile.
Because she had not had such a good idea in quite a while.
By: Princess Mia-Talia A. Lowe
Ode to Stigma Freedom

Minister Gerald Gerome Israel

My name is Gerald Gerome Israel, I’m an ordained minister and mental health consumer advocate. I’m a NAMIGO member and also a member of the NAMIGO Writers’ Block. Christianity is an important part of my life. I love sharing the Gospel with people. God has blessed my life and is a daily inspiration to me. Read this Bible scripture: Romans 8 chapter and 28-31 verse. I believe it will be an encouragement to you all.

I’ve been involved in the community as a mental health consumer advocate for 26 years. I’m an active board member of Pathways Drop-in Center 1998 to the present. I’ve attended mental health consumer support groups. I’ve represented NAMIGO as a consumer at the State and National level convention. I’ve been a presenter at C.I.T. meetings. I love all those endeavors. I enjoy hobbies such as poetry, sports, comedy, newsletter writing and hope to become a published author soon. My main focus in life is my relationship with God and to impact, encourage, educate and humor people. That is all of my passion in life.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my life with you all. Be encouraged by this affirmation if you don’t give up on life things will get better. But if you give up on life things get worse. My favorite quote to tell people is God is good all the time, a daily blessing in our lives.

By Minister Gerald Gerome Israel


Minister Gerald Gerome Israel