You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.
What were your first thoughts or feelings when you began considering your path as a Peer Support Specialist? Were you excited, hopeful, and ambitious? Perhaps you were scared, nervous, or apprehensive? Maybe you were a mixture of some or all of the above?
If you only felt excitement, you may be asking, “Why would someone be apprehensive, nervous, or scared about becoming a peer support specialist?” Good question! For me, it was an overwhelming mixture of all of the above emotions. I look back now, and I am so grateful that I decided to take this step.
When I first heard about a “Peer Support Specialist”, I was intrigued. To me, it seemed like an amazing opportunity to use my lived experiences to better myself and help others. But the more I thought about it, the more fearful I became. I had worked in the professional business world my entire life. I had become a successful small business owner and it wasn’t until recently that I had become a crisis intervention counselor. While I had volunteered for various charities to promote mental health awareness and had even written a memoir, that memoir was under a pseudonym. For the most part, I had spent the majority of my life trying to hide the fact that I had a mental illness, not promoting it. I hid it to the extent of being in denial myself for years. Now that I was thinking about being a Peer Support Specialist, all I could picture was this flashing neon sign on my forehead that read “I HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS” while trying to get taken seriously in my newly chosen career path.
So why, you may wonder, did I decide to take this leap forward? Yet another good question! One day my publisher tagged me in a social media post while trying to promote my book. It was a quote I had written about my fear of judgment playing a role in my difficulty admitting my illness or past abuse, even to myself. It was as if I had worn an imaginary veil. I believed that by not acknowledging it, I was protecting myself-the veil was protecting me. In reality, the veil only held in all the pain, never allowing it to escape.
The quote read:
- Judgement is a roadblock. Roadblocks stop the race. But without roadblocks-
- Truth is just a hurdle that can be jumped if someone is willing to listen.
- Fear is just a hurdle that can be jumped if someone is listening free of judgment.
- Once the hurdles are cleared
- the race gets easier.
Wow, that hit home! Was I living up to my own words? Was I living up to my potential? Was there more I could and should be doing? Was I still living with a veil over my face trying to protect myself? I knew the answer.
So here I am today. My name is Sarah. I am so proud to say that I am a Peer Support Specialist! I am a childhood trauma abuse victim. I suffer from depression and anxiety. Oh, and did I mention that since early childhood I have suffered from factitious disorder (also called Munchausen Syndrome)? I will continue to speak up, speak out, and speak louder for mental health awareness!
-Sarah Peters, PSS
About the Author
Sarah Peters is a Peer Support Specialist in North-Central Iowa and is passionate about working with teens, writing, and dedicating time to her nonprofit organization’s startup project called the “Best Friend Project”. When not working she enjoys nothing more than spending time with her family, especially her two granddaughters, and being in nature.