Karen Ranus: Wow, you really are starting at the beginning. I have no memories of them together. My mom found herself as a single divorced mom when I was about two years old. And so once I had kids, I needed to create that safe space for my own family. Because it wasn't anything that I had growing up. I met Mark. We were going to get married, save money, buy a house. You know, we’re going to do it right. One of the things that I loved about this house was there's this window that looks out into the backyard. I would stand there and I'd be cooking dinner or washing dishes and I could just see them. I could hear them laughing and running around chasing each other. I wanted to make sure that I took the time to absorb it because it's like, this is it. This is all I ever wanted.
Karen Ranus: I remember one night I was going up to bed and I checked my phone before I went to bed and there was a text from her. And it said, "Always remember how much I love you, but I don't want to die and can you come get me?" I remember sitting in the hospital and thinking, "How does this happen to a family like ours?" I was not ashamed of her, but I was ashamed. Like we'd failed as a family somehow. That only happens to bad families, right?
Karen Ranus: We felt really isolated and alone and I'm constantly searching for resources. And I stumbled across NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. And I just thought, "I'm just going to take this class." Suddenly I'm in this room with these people who are all navigating the same stuff and it was transformative. That wasn't what got my daughter to recovery, but it transformed us as a family. We were about nine months into Sarah's recovery and things were better. And I was trying to get back into gear with work. So I went to this job site that's for nonprofits, and at the very top of the listings was a job for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in central Texas.
Karen Ranus: And I knew the power of how that had transformed my family and I wanted to make that possible for more families in our community. This was an opportunity to impact people's lives. There were all those people that I kept encountering saying, and that happened to me too, and my son and my daughter and my husband. And I knew they were there because I'd been talking to them. And if I can get people enthusiastic and willing to share their story, we create this whole line of people behind me saying altogether, "We don't need to be ashamed" and "I'm not alone anymore."