Peers Tell Their Stories

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We’ve been sharing some thoughts and experiences of counselors J, K, M, R and Y, working with Recovery Innovations both as participants in the system and as peers or coaches helping others.  This is blog 3 of a series of 10 on this topic.  Here are some of their stories!

R says, “My first peer that I ever spoke with, I saw her a year later. She said that she got hope. Through recovery she got her family back home, she has her own home, and she says that she never would have been able to do it if it weren’t for other people who have experienced mental illness and were willing to share with these people and just be with them and let them know we’re there.”

Y relates, “It helped me with my recovery.   It keeps me grounded. If I’m going through some challenges, I’ll still get up and go to work in the morning.   It takes my mind off of me and I’m helping somebody else, my peers. It’ll take my problem off me for eight hours. Sometimes when I get home, I’m not even experiencing any more challenges because my job is rewarding. It’s therapeutic for me. I love my job.”

It’s very unusual for people to talk about how therapeutic their job is for them except when they come home they want to go to happy hour. Y can share with people some of the challenges she had to overcome. This reminds her of where she came from, and gives people hope. That certainly makes a job real important! “In this work, you open your heart to other people. This is not just about a therapy deal. This is about opening your heart to someone else and ‘meeting them where they’re at.’ It’s been invaluable both with inpatients and outpatients, to have something like that they can grab a hold of, a safety rope.”

M adds, “I share my story with them because once I share my story, you can see a wall come down because then they feel that they have something in common with me. I can get them to talk and be more relaxed when talking with me.” As providers, we appreciate this and recognize our limitations! We have a strong community we refer people to and we work with hand in hand to assist them to be successful.

In the next blog, we’ll summarize some of the forward strides being made in the mental health community

Power in the Group

 

 

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We have had chats with J, K, R, M and Y, peers at Recovery Innovations.  This is blog 2 of a series of 10 blogs on this topic.  When recovery culture happens, is it through groups, people meeting together, learning how to do things? How does it work?

They do one on one support, supporting their peers. R shares, “We embrace all cultures, because there are a lot of different ones to embrace!” Embracing a person’s culture allows him or her to feel included, not feel set aside or put off by the fact that they are there to develop a recovery for their mental health challenges. Recovery is possible for everybody, not just one culture or gender. We all have our own unique ways and bring different things to the team.

R adds, “When I come in to work each day, I come in unjudgmental to my job and treat everyone like they’re really something special, because they are. They’ve helped me in my recovery and it’s a journey to me. It’s not just recovery, it’s a journey and you can have high points and low points but you always finish out on top if you just keep that hope for yourself and others!”

It’s obvious that there’s a lot of power in the whole group, that hope together with everybody supporting each other in that process.  Y says, “They understand what we are trying to relate to them and also relating to them, that we’ve been through what they’re going through.”

R described how she felt alone in her crises and in her mental health challenges.   “But, in the recovery environment, you feel equal to everybody else there…without the stigma mental illness puts on a person.” She reveals “just having that camaraderie with people that meet me where I’m at and accepting who I am and not look at me and say, ‘Well, she’s got this diagnosis.’ Or ‘She’s got that problem.’ You know, I can be myself.”

The recovery peers feel that a part of the power of the program is that they are also working toward wellness. They don’t focus on illness or getting treatment. As part of that, everybody defines their own idea of what wellness is for them across those five pathways.

In the next segment, the counselors will share some of their experiences in the wellness program.

 

The Five Recovery Pathways to Wellness

IMG_1026We have had a number of discussions with the great set of people from Recovery Innovations International, including M, Y, J, K and R. Vernon has been a drug and alcohol specialist and was introduced to 12 Step Programs and the principles of recovery.   Wellness is a goal that we achieve and illness is something that takes away from wellness. Quite often in mental health, it is a process of one-on-one counseling, maybe group therapy, everything very confidential. There is a lot of stigma and issues related to having an illness needing treatment and needing support. Vernon had a very refreshing experience when introduced to Recovery Innovations now Recovery Innovations International. This is an awesome team of people who have helped family members and have been a great resource in our community. They understand the processes of wellness and recovery using a holistic approach. The next few blogs will review a little about their program. What makes it powerful in the collective world of mental health treatment as well as in the lives of the recovery specialists individually?

K reveals that Recovery Innovations started in 1996 as Meta Services. Their philosophy is based on the five recovery pathways. The first one is Hope. It’s a turning point, when we realize things are getting better. For her, “that was the key of my recovery, to get some hope back in my life.” The next pathway is Choice and the courage to make a choice. As K says, “It was a choice for me to recover, not somebody else making that choice but me making the choices by myself and the more we choose, the more we recover.” The third pathway is Empowerment, reclaiming the power to think for oneself, express feelings and opinions, succeed or fail, or to just have fun. In recovery culture, there is Value. Finally, Spirituality is finding new meaning and purpose in life. As K confesses, that’s what I needed to do with my life and that’s why I’m part of people that serve people with mental health challenges.”

The system and the culture of recovery allow a chance of fulfilling goals for each person and then that helps the person give back to that community.

Choice, hope and empowerment are the kinds of things that make it worthwhile to get up in the morning and go to work. In the next segment, we’ll review how some of this happens in the recovery culture.

Life After Robin Williams

I didn’t want to blog about Robin’s death by apparent suicide until I could grieve some on my own. He was one of my favorite actors and comedians. So many could identify with or look up to him as he struggled to overcome his challenges, despite fame and fortune!  And, many of them are left behind to question why.

So, Robin, it’s your personal decision to leave us, and it’s a loss.  I, like many others, feel your decision personally and have taken it personally. I don’t just mean your loved ones left behind, but many others who have or suffer from depression, with or without the consideration of suicide.  Your reach has been far and wide, Robin. I’ve had a few admitted to the hospital feeling so shaken.  If you could, why couldn’t they… After all, you had a lot more to lose, given your successes.  That is the sad state of mental illness in the world. We forget it’s an equal opportunity employer. Come one, come all. There are openings for novices and experienced people in sorrow and despair, careers in regrets, and progressive promotions to lost time, relationships and life itself.

We must remember that Robin was no different from any others who succumbed to this disease of depression, one of the leading causes of disability and lost productivity worldwide. 

Then, there is the aftermath of suicide. It increases the risk for loved ones to follow the same path and often brings unbearable pain and loss to those left behind. Let us pray for them and not just seek refuge in the words of those who accuse him of being selfish for what he did.  As they say, “it’s complicated.” 

Each person does bear the responsibility to reach out for help when it’s starting to get dark, before one is so consumed he or she is no longer able to fight alone.  

So, we go on with life after Robin.  “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living,” said Mother Mary Harris Jones. 

Life After Robin Williams

I didn’t want to blog about Robin’s death by apparent suicide until I could grieve some on my own. He was one of my favorite actors and comedians. So many could identify with or look up to him as he struggled to overcome his challenges, despite fame and fortune!  And, many of them are left behind to question why.

So, Robin, it’s your personal decision to leave us, and it’s a loss.  I, like many others, feel your decision personally and have taken it personally. I don’t just mean your loved ones left behind, but many others who have or suffer from depression, with or without the consideration of suicide.  Your reach has been far and wide, Robin. I’ve had a few admitted to the hospital feeling so shaken.  If you could, why couldn’t they… After all, you had a lot more to lose, given your successes.  That is the sad state of mental illness in the world. We forget it’s an equal opportunity employer. Come one, come all. There are openings for novices and experienced people in sorrow and despair, careers in regrets, and progressive promotions to lost time, relationships and life itself.

We must remember that Robin was no different from any others who succumbed to this disease of depression, one of the leading causes of disability and lost productivity worldwide. 

Then, there is the aftermath of suicide. It increases the risk for loved ones to follow the same path and often brings unbearable pain and loss to those left behind. Let us pray for them and not just seek refuge in the words of those who accuse him of being selfish for what he did.  As they say, “it’s complicated.” 

Each person does bear the responsibility to reach out for help when it’s starting to get dark, before one is so consumed he or she is no longer able to fight alone.  

So, we go on with life after Robin.  “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living,” said Mother Mary Harris Jones.