Part of the Awakened Foundation is the Satori Project, which encourages people who have experienced abuse to share their stories though creativity. An aspect of this project is featuring stories from people in blogs or articles. Please note that because of the nature of the project, the Awakened Foundation aims to keep artwork authentic and although does some editing, supports the authenticity of each story. Because of this, please be warned that the following blog covers sensitive topics.
This month we are featuring Nikki Brooker from "YANAM2M" (You Are Not Alone Mom 2 Mom). When I met Nikki I felt how deeply she cared for her cause and her honesty was refreshing. Nikki is a mom of three and through her non-profit, offers other mom's support, guidance and authentic friendship. When she shared more about the inspiration behind the organization, it was truly inspirational and courageous.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I am a mom of 3 (ages 17, 15 and 10), an educator (for over 20 years) and a wife of almost 23 years. I am originally from northern Michigan but absolutely LOVE Colorado. I love to bike, do bootcamp workouts and be social with my girlfriends.
2. How did the journey of Yanam2m begin?
After two moms took their lives and the lives of their children (in Nov. 2016 and Feb. 2017), I decided that we need to support our moms of our community better and build each other up instead of tearing each other down. We were blessed to take over another non-profit and become an official 501c3 in June 2017.
3. What has been the response from the community?
We have been embraced throughout our community and are supporting over 25 moms. We have had only positive responses and all mental health professionals have praised our efforts to, a) change the face of mental health and b) create a system for prevention.
4. What have been some of the greatest inspirations for Yanam2m?
After Jen Laber took her life and the lives of her two small boys, I met with her husband. He told me her story and we spoke about how “normal” things were in his life before the tragedy. We spoke about how much he loved being a daddy and a husband. At the end of our meeting I asked him in his opinion, if my efforts, time and money that I had already put into YANAM2M was worth it. He paused, looked at me and said, “If you would have done this 5 months ago, I might still be a daddy and a husband.” That was truly all the inspiration I needed!
5. What do you love the most about what you do?
When I hear that moms and support moms are there for one another and are making great gains in their relationships, it truly touches my heart. We have created relationships that wouldn’t normally be created and that’s something truly magical.
6. Why did you decide to create Yanam2m?
I felt there was a need to build each other up instead of tearing each other down. There is so much negativity in our world and with social media taking over the world, so many people feel that their struggles are overwhelming and that they are truly alone. When you open up the lines of communication, you find that none of us are alone and there are millions of other people just like us… we just need to find them!
7. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve overcome during this journey?
To be honest, most things have come very easily. We found two different locations to hold our events and have been gifted those, so that’s amazing. I was handed a non-profit whose CEO was looking to rebrand their mission anyway, so that was amazing. The biggest hurdle we are facing now is funding. We are truly in need of funding for staffing, programs and expansion. We would love to open a chapter of YANAM2M in countless other communities and we cannot do that without funding.
8. Could you tell us more about any Yanam2m events?
We have lots of different kinds of events. First of all, we have weekly gatherings where moms and kiddos come to either Burn Bootcamp (1:30-3:30pm) or Westridge Recreation Center (9-11am). These gatherings are just a time for moms to hang out, connect and make a community and for the kiddos to enjoy each other’s company and learn how to play together. It is such a great part of our week! We sometimes have speakers at these events and we have had things like acupuncture, but for the most part, they are just a playdate time for the moms to get to know one another and be in an accepting, loving environment. We also have had fundraisers like a vendor fair, workouts at Burn Bootcamp and other home-party type events. We are planning a 5K run, shopping events and other fun events for our moms in the next 6 months.
9. How would a Mom get involved with the program?
Any mom is welcome to join our group. We are always looking for support moms (a mom who usually has older children who can be a non-judgmental support to another mommy) but all moms are always welcome. They can check out our website at www.yanam2m.org and take a look at our calendar. That has all of our events listed. They can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
10. How could family members, friends or supporters get involved?
Contacting me with questions about this is the best way to get involved. We are not a mental health facility but instead are a support group for moms.
11. In your perspective, if a survivor is feeling overwhelmed or isn’t certain about where to start, what advice would you give about starting their journey of healing?
Ryan Laber said in an interview with 7news that his wife, Jen was one person away from not taking her life or the lives of her children. ONE PERSON who cared. Find that one person. Find one person who makes you feel safe and accepted and valued. If that means calling me and asking me about the process, great. If it means attending one of our playdates, great. If it means talking to a therapist, great. Just find that one person who can help you find your way.
12. In your opinion - Why do you feel society has difficulty around this topic (suicide)?
Our society wants to sweep all difficult topics under the rug. They want to put on a happy face and pretend that everything is perfect and they live in the perfect household with the perfect kids and the perfect spouse. The reality is that NO ONE has that. NO ONE is living the perfect life and if they say that they are, they are lying. Life is hard… the world is hard and mental health is even harder. People don’t want to face the fact that 1 in 4 human beings have had or will have a mental health disorder in their lifetime. That’s 25% of human beings. That is higher than breast cancer and yet no one wants to talk about it. Mental health is one of the leading causes of death and rising medical costs in the US.
13. What keeps you focused and grounded when things get challenging?
I believe in the mission of YANAM2M to my core and I truly want to make a difference in the lives of moms (and subsequently, their children). I see the faces of our moms at our events and I know that what we are doing is making a difference. That is what keeps me going and what keeps me on track.
14. Are there any up and coming projects that you’re working on?
We are always working on supporting our moms better and looking for partnerships that make sense for our moms.
15. Are there any words of wisdom you’d like to share?
I wish there was a magic wand that brought back the three children who were taken too soon. I wish there was a magic want that brought the two moms back who felt they only had one way out. But since there isn’t such a wand, we need to work together, as a community to make sure we don’t lose another mom or kiddo to depression, anxiety and the feeling that they aren’t “enough.”
Interviewed by Laura Naomi
© awakenedfoundation 2018