Have you ever had a sibling you just couldn’t get along with and always bickered with and even though you were at each other’s throat you could still sit down at the family dinner table and love each other anyway?
This is nothing like that.
I am so aware of my reputation in the behavioral health community as a brash, diagreealbe peer advocate who turns people off because I am quick to challenge established protocol and quicker to express peer needs in blunt, direct terms. And my reply?
Good. I’m doing my job right.
You see, I didn’t start out in behavioral health advocacy to make friends with the world and attend hugfests in a peer-hostile echo chamber. I started out in peer advocacy because I had friends in DBSA Albuquerque who didn’t even know how to apply for Medicaid (nor did I) and these friends desperately needed services and medications. Without insurance, this doesn’t happen. So, my friends suffer needlessly. They suffer. And I watched them suffer. Every week I watched them suffer. So why did I start attending meetings like LC2?
I started out in peer advocacy to find the answers to my friends’ questions so they didn’t have to suffer any longer.
Some eight years later, I’m still out there finding answers. Better, I’m out there creating answers. The State of New Mexico gave me this Lifetime Achievement Award in Behavioral Health Innovation I think in part because . . . I have no idea why they thought I’ve accomplished everything I’m going to do by age 46. Am I supposed to stop living now? Weirdness.
In any case, with the help of my friends, we endeavor to help others understand our needs by sharing of ourselves and our life experiences. In this, we have the best opportunity of reaching Muggles, policy makers, providers, legislators, and the community. In fact, this is what Stand Up To Stigma is ENITRELY built upon. Peers openly telling tales of challenge and triumph to help others understand . . . by way of sharing their stories living with mental health issues.
As an important deviation, grammar style guides insist that all numbers between zero and ten be fully spelled out and not expressed with the digit character. Given the example above, “Some eight years later” is proper. “Some 8 years later” means you were too distracted from learning because of passing notes in first grade of the ilk “Do you like me? Yes. No. Maybe.” It must lag hard you got so many “no” notes passed back. Jenny Caruthers’ reply included a sketch of her vomiting all over your head. She showed me. That must be traumatic, any time a woman vomits in your presence. And then draws it. And sends it to you. I know this happened in the Cottonwood Mall food court on Sunday. It’s on YouTube and viral. Go check. You can run away from my blog but you can’t run away from the truth.
Hey, did you know that the beautiful bosque cottonwoods were not always as lush and established as now we enjoy? Farming upstream in the San Luis Valley of Colorado led to increased siltation and seasonal flooding as the Rio Grande passed through Albuquerque. The result was hyperalkaline swamps along the banks of the river making once-profitable farming in Albuquerque a historic relic beginning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Read up on Aldo Leopold and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy. The reclamation he developed and initiated not only saved farming along the Rio Grande, it also provided the ideal habitat for lush, dense cottonwood forests along the Rio Grande. And, we got Tingley Beach, the Zoo, and the Botanical Park out of the deal. And a country club. And a path for Route 66. Speaking of cool historical stuff to read up on, research the history of Conservancy Beach … Municipal Beach . . . Ernie Pyle Beach . . . Tingley Beach before the polio fright in 1951. By all accounts it was magical.
If not for Aldo Leopold, perhaps we would visit Hot Topic at Hyperalkaline Swamp Mall instead.
Get this. I embrace my controversial slash & burn advocacy stylings . . . much like I embraced Jenny Caruthers behind the handball court and then told you about it right after recess in algebra class . . . because I’m proud of my ability to weather either reciprocated or reflexive defensiveness from those who tug gently the strings of peer wellness. It’s the frustration of penetrating the geometric din of the peer-hostile echo chamber (PHEC). Frustration. I’m sure destructive interference resonance within the PHEC is annoying. It’s natural to experience something you don’t want to hear as combative. I fault no one. I offer to embrace you if it helps you empower yourself to feel better.
By the by, my primary emotion at many behavioral health meetings is this frustration. It is not the emotion of pissiness. When I see my friends suffering and when I attend a meeting voicing their issues, concerns, and needs and join my friends later sharing that we’ve made no headway, I don’t feel like a very effective or successful peer representative. And by the by again, the honor of peer representation is often mistaken for showing up and being a peer placeholder. A dedicated representative listens to friends and represents THEIR issues, concerns, and needs. And ultimately, what is represented is our peer solutions. And by the by once more, it often feels like I’m talking in some weird moonman language. There must be moonman prejudices on these committees. I heard rumbles of building a wall between the US of A and the moon. For shame.
Or as my fellow peer moonmen would say . . . for shame.
We’ve done a Stand Up To Stigma podcast where I share openly – with the support, encouragement, and love of my dearest friends – my experience with PTSD borne of my choice to be on the Mental Health Response Advisory Committee (MHRAC). The motivation for the podcast was for me to reempower myself through personal accountability and responsibility and create the effective reality of taking back the power I gave others on loan. The gift is as a team member of an independent peer collaborative I no longer am required to ask for permission to do what’s right in my heart and the hearts of my friends. The greater gift is our community now has a pure peer voice guided by this benevolent principle:
Please work with peers to make our lives better. Please understand peers are suffering RIGHT NOW and we need quality services and effective policies RIGHT NOW. And please realize you don’t have to guess what we want. We are happy to tell you if you are happy to listen.
Our Stand Up To Stigma peer focus group is trained, is activated, and is coming to MHRAC. And we’re excited for the opportunity we’ve created for peers. We’re moving into the community. We’re offering our voice. We will share with you the solutions that will work best for us. Free of charge.
I’m happy to share I’ve come to terms with my PTSD symptoms. I’m happier to say I’ve reempowered myself. I’m happiest to say I’m back to the person I know I am. I’ve missed everyone so much it hurts. Let’s embrace.
By the by, this article is just a little tongue in cheek. Only just.
Reprinted with kind permission of Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.