The media needs to author their own DSM.
Sigh. More mental health quackery.
The media needs to author their own DSM.
Sigh. More mental health quackery.
I’ve got bipolar. It’s a fairly straightforward, mundane flavor of bipolar with the ups and the downs. Way up and I’m driving to Nova Scotia in three days from Albuquerque, whilst my kidnapped roommate scribbles a “Being Held Against My Will. Call Police. Please Help.” on the back of a Howard Johnson’s napkin, plastering it against his passenger side window for passing motorists to glance at and ignore. Who wants to help a kidnap victim jetting along at 75 mph? By the time they called the police (these are the days before cell phones where really effort needed to be made to “call the police”), the poor kidnapped roommate would be 200 miles down the road where we could have turned off anywhere going to any place. Like Nova Scotia. In three days. From Albuquerque.
Way down and I’m not getting out of bed, barely feeding myself, and I’m debating the necessity of a bed pan as a convenience or merely an unfortunate middleman.
Something else happens when I get exceptionally depressed. I get psychotic. This is no mood disorder thing. I enter a reality no one else can see or hear or taste or understand. My brain has decided that depression is just not fun enough, like a girlfriend who decides a new apple red Miata would go great with the 20 carat diamond engagement ring you just got her by eating ramen and forgoing dental visits since your very first paper route, scrimping penny by penny just dreaming about the day you meet that ungrateful gold digger of your dreams.
This is the girl I married. Susan. Social climber, social debutante, social parasite. The majority of our relationship was spent with me being undiagnosed with bipolar. The symptoms were all there. It was the diagnosis and treatment that were missing. And the love. There wasn’t a lot of true love there. Not the type of love humans typically had for each other. My love for her was more like the love a neglected Chihuahua shows the person who occasionally throws wilted kale leaves into the garage, and lives most of his life in a mouse-chewed Adidas box in the back corner of the garage, and the single garage lightbulb burned out in 1992, and the Chihuahua was born in 1994 in that Adidas box with his seven puppy brothers and sisters, and the Chihuahua was the only one to survive birth, including his mother, and the corpses of pups and mum were never removed or noticed, and kale leaves were not on the menu for the first two months of his life and yet the Chihuahua wasn’t undernourished until his third month of life…
I grew to hate kale.
And the ex-wife, she had this to say to me during the divorce:
“I only loved you when you were successful.”
Our power couple name mash up was “SusanateluciferwholeandnowlordsoverhellSteve”. Not quite Bragelina or Bennifer in brevity or intent, but there it is.
So psychosis. I get supermega-depressed and I go psychotic. Full bore, engine in redline psychotic. Typically, this manifests as delusions and paranoia. During my divorce and the endless court dates to fight for custody of my very favorite son (my only son), my psychotic symptoms reached a new zenith, a trajectory even Icarus would envy.
The court battles sucked. The proto-ex-wife sucked worse. And she was kicking my ass in court. I couldn’t figure out how she knew so much of the strategy my excellent attorney engineered, but dude, it was like she was in my head, which I know is impossible because my skull was both lead and niobium-shielded. Yep, I was already well on the way to Disney’s Dimentialand. Every character there is named “Goofy.” Too easy. Sorry. Better joke writers for the next blog post.
So one early morning, around 2 AM-ish, I finally figured out how she was getting all the “insider information” she was using against me in court. If there was no way for her to penetrate my mind (because lead and niobium thwart pure, unfiltered evil very effectively), obviously my mind must be broadcasting my thoughts to her. Obviously. And it was the neighbor’s tree that was amplifying my thoughts and broadcasting them to the soon to be ex-wife. Obviously. Clearly. Variance denied.
I’m a solution guy. I’m all about creating my own solutions. The neighbor’s tree was broadcasting my thoughts. If my neighbor’s ham radio array was broadcasting video of me in the shower (I’m sure it was), what would I have done? I would take out that radio array. I’d topple it. I’d kill that broadcast suddenly and definitively.
A tree is very much like a ham radio array. Only it is alive and it’s made of wood. To kill the broadcast, the tree must die. The tree was like Jenny Picket in fifth grade who gossiped a lot. Jenny needed to die, too. But that’s hyperbole. You hope. I hope. Where was I?
Right! The tree had to die. And seeing as it was made of wood, I had the perfect instrument of “arborcide.” My camping axe. So at 3 AM-ish in the morning, I chopped down my neighbor’s tree. It had to be done immediately at 3 AM, before the soon to be ex-wife could wake up and start taking notes again. Guess what? I felled the tree… and the broadcast stopped!
Funny thing happened, though. When a tree thought-broadcasting array stops transmission, the Albuquerque Police Department picks up another form of transmission I understand is termed “The Neighbor Who Owned The Tree Called 911.”
That’s a tangential story. Enough for now.
There was a seven month window in 2015 where I dedicated a bunch of my volunteer peer advocacy hours to helping out on the NAMI Albuquerque board. It was best of times, and it was the best of times. See how chipper and chock full o’ golden sunbeams I am?
Jim Ogle, the then president of our crew, was a tireless champion for behavioral health legislation designed to help peers and their families and friends. He’s the dude who brought me on to the NAMI Albuquerque board. Jim rocks.
Our first project together was the Community Engagement Team, which I will talk about at another time. Always with the “another time” rhetoric. Look, I’ve got a few decades of bipolar experiences tucked away inside of my Bag o’ Wisdom and the anecdotes aren’t going nowhere. Patience, Grasshopper. My Kung Fu is stronger than yours.
Tireless. Jim was tireless. He still is tireless. He’s a committee chair for legislation at NAMI New Mexico nowadays. Tireless. Without tires. Like the cliche redneck tireless truck on cinder blocks on the weedy front lawn where the ratio of weed to lawn definitely favors the weeds. Tireless. I hate myself for starting this article with a pun. Puns suck.
Apparently, I love to write. Steve’s Thoughtcrimes has been live again for about 12 minutes now and I’ve pumped out a good half dozen articles already, each rivaling the collected works of Charles Dickens in length and content, only people will enjoy reading my blog. Dickens also sucks because he relies heavily upon puns. “There’s more of gravy than the grave about you…” Idiot. Lazy writer and an idiot. Puns. Sucky sucky puns.
Back on target: During my tenure on the NAMI Albuquerque board, I submitted three or four articles for the recently-in-limbo NAMI Challenger, our affiliate’s physical newsletter that is in transition to becoming a reality again from what I’m told. The articles I submitted are good articles, with topics like the Community Engagement Team (mentioned earlier), Minds Interrupted (mentioned now), and NAMI’s Peer To Peer (also mentioned now).
I am proud my articles were chosen for publication. I am thrilled with how many folks still approach me at behavioral health shindigs to talk about what I wrote. It’s cool beans, the coolest of beans. However, here comes the “however.”
However, the editorial quality control was somewhere between indifferent to ineffective. Shall I explain? Let me do so through the magic of “The Letter to the Editor” I never got around to sending.
To be fair (because I am always the epitome of tolerance and justice), the editorial staff was in great flux during my tenure, and Felicia (our treasurer) was the only one on the board doing anything to keep all the balls in the air and all the plates spinning on sticks without any of it crashing to the ground. Sigh. Tired metaphors. The point is Felicia was doing tons of work and that there was no oversight of our Challenger editor is not her doing.
Okay, let’s get to my Letter to the NAMI Albuquerque Challenger Editor.
NAMI Albuquerque Challenger editor:
As an editor, you are tasked with handling words. That’s the distilled job description. Editors handle words.
I’ve been an editor many times through the years. Looking back, my first editorial position was stealing like/love letters from my 3rd grade classmates, spicing them up a bit (as a 3rd grader, “spicing it up” was akin to “and I want to kiss you on the mouth with our eyes closed”), and then giving them to the intended recipients. Granted, this was more “being a jerk” than “being an editor”, but how appropriate the unintended parallel between “jerk” and “editor” I made in third grade to how “adult editors” behave?
Let me give you an example from my own days as an editor of our college newsletter.
We had a dude named Chris Becker who was getting ready to defend his PhD dissertation, and he asked me if I could include his abstract in our school newsletter so he had something in print with the college’s name on it to send to his mom and dad. Sure thing! Chris and I played volleyball together, and he was a fellow geology student, so you bet, Chris, I’m thrilled to post your abstract to the newsletter.
As many editors are keenly aware, there are a finite number of words you can cram into the pages of a physical publication. Sometimes, snipping even a few letters here and there (not even whole words) can free up real estate on one page so words will fit on the next page. Handling words. I was handling words.
Part of Chris’ abstract dealt with iron oxidation and iron reduction in sedimentary lithologies, with localized iron reduction spots in rocks being the result of carbonaceous biotic material like plants and dinosaur poop.
There are two types of iron:
Fe+2 – Oxidizing iron – Ferric
Fe+3 – Reduction iron – Ferrous
Now, “iron is iron”, right? How can the type of iron make a difference, and more importantly, how can using “ferric” and “ferrous” make a difference? I mean, other than ferric iron carries oxygen to the myriad of cells in your body on its way from the heart (it’s red, and it’s ferric) and on the way back to the heart the blood is without oxygen and won’t counterproductively strip oxygen away from the cells during this return journey (it’s blue, and it’s ferrous), and that our ability to live is predicated on nature providing us ferric and ferrous iron, about the only real, important difference is “ferrous” is one letter longer than “ferric”. And since Chris’ abstract inefficiently uses “ferrous” four times, heck, total bonus. I can free up four letters for use elsewhere making the edit from “ferrous” to “ferric.”
I’m a brilliant editor! Four letters! Enough for a four letter word in another article! “Pump.” “Cats.” “Full.” “of.” “Lead.” All four letter words. Sorry, I took liberty with “of” which is not a four letter word. No matter. I’m editor!
The newsletter came out. I proudly delivered a copy to Chris myself. He read the article. He turned red (a ferric emotional reaction, perhaps?). Chris had many four letter words for me. So many. So so so many.
For scientific accuracy, the difference between “ferric” and “ferrous” is like the difference between “man parts” and “woman parts” when choosing a romantic partner. It matters. It’s not just an edit of a few letters here and there. It’s completely changing the purpose and credibility of the author’s intent.
Chris is my friend, and I felt so horrible. I had to take him out and get him drunk that night on my nickel so he would slur his words and I could no longer decipher which four letter words he was using any more.
Where did I go wrong? Let’s see. I changed the words of the author without asking, although as editor it was my job to handle words efficiently and this fell under my purview. More crucially, though, I didn’t check with Chris after I changed these words.
This is the perfect example of editing without self-oversight, and I learned two very important lessons about being a responsible editor from this experience:
Had I followed these two rules of being a responsible editor, I wouldn’t have made such a huge blunder. And, I wouldn’t have had to use a good 500 characters in the next newsletter printing a retraction.
This ends the analogy and exposition segment of my letter. Let’s move to the issue I have with how you edited my article. Let’s move on to the point I’m making.
As a behavioral health peer advocate, I choose my words with great care and deliberate forethought. When I submit an article for publication, even though I’m exceptionally “wordy” and love things like nested prepositional phrases, I will all the same choose very specific words for very specific purposes to convey a very specific point to share a very specific message.
There is a huge difference between:
Since you seem unaware of how important of an advocacy talking point this is to me, and that I NEVER use “journey to recovery” in articles, public presentations, and behavioral health events, I’d like to educate you on this vital difference so you will not make the same error again with another peer’s article.
A “Journey to Recovery” implies that recovery is a destination, and if I work hard enough on myself I can reach recovery and be cured. To me, this is a ludicrous idea that does not speak to the reality of having a chronic condition like bipolar.
Conversely, my using “Recovery Journey” speaks to my managing the symptoms of bipolar. I do this through a proper medication regimen, exercise, diet, sleep schedule, playing my ukulele, tormenting my rabbits by shaving them and then petting them with steel wool (joke… I’m getting bored with writing but don’t want to take a breather), regular socialization, peer support groups, peer advocacy, and just keeping track of how my mood is doing.
Every day of my life for the rest of my life I am on this journey. Every day I’m in recovery. This is an important message I share with peers in my advocacy efforts. It is central to my advocacy.
It’s not an argument of semantics or “being touchy.” I am known and respected by our peer communities, and I am loud and obnoxious in my advocacy (some say “slash and burn” advocacy, although I prefer “If you people would stop and listen to me and my friends I wouldn’t have to drive my point home over and over and over” advocacy), and because of this I must be exceptionally responsible and aware of the message I present to my peers.
I am in a privileged position of being able to help guide my friends in their recovery journey through sharing my experiences in my own recovery journey. I speak regularly on exactly why I don’t use “journey to recovery” and insist on stating I am on my RECOVERY JOURNEY. Honestly. I’m a total, complete, and utter pain in the neck about this.
Do you know how I came to learn of your editorial error? A friend called me and said, “Steve, you didn’t write ‘journey to recovery’ in your Challenger article, did you? That doesn’t sound like you.”
This sentiment was echoed by quite a few more friends over the following week. Recovery journey, not journey to recovery. It is important to my message, it is important to my advocacy, and it is important to me as a peer with bipolar.
I have bipolar. I will always have bipolar. I will always have to manage the symptoms of bipolar. This is my recovery journey.
I need to be absolutely clear about this:
Had you sent me your incorrectly edited version of my article prior to publication, this error on your part would have never made it to print.
I’m a solutions kind of guy and will be presenting a proposal on how to professionally and responsibly manage our affiliate’s Challenger newsletter at our next board meeting. I welcome your input by inviting you to the NAMI Albuquerque board meeting.
Chair, NAMI Albuquerque Peer Action Team
President, DBSA Albuquerque
Ed. note: I know this letter was kind of saucy and bordering on condescending (and I can’t fib and say it wasn’t therapeutic to an extent… even though my calmer head prevailed and I didn’t send this letter), although I ask for you to consider that the editor made this “revision” by request of another NAMI Albuquerque board member who knew it’d bug me.
Ah, to be adults and in love/hate.
This is a response to an article in The Taos News by John Miller:
Specifically, I wanted to respond to an online comment by concerned community stakeholder Linda Carol Nicholas:
Please consider the children at Enos Garcia and the families in the neighborhood.
To begin, let me share – from personal knowledge – there are parents with children at Enos Garcia who’ve received services at Valle del Sol. These are children and families of the Enos Garcia community with vested interest in both facilities.
That said, I’m curious what “Please consider the children at Enos Garcia and the families in the neighborhood” entails. As I read this, having quality behavioral health services available to the children and families is the primary consideration. However, I feel “consideration” has a more sinister implication based on behavioral health stigmatization. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Many of these stigmas are rooted in the misconception those in need of behavioral health services are inherently violent or a poorly defined “dangerous threat.” Numerous studies have shown those in need of behavioral health services are at greater risk of being the victim of violent crime than the perpetrator of violent crime.
In considering the children, we have an opportunity to educate our children in mental health BEFORE there is a downward slide into bias and prejudice. And in considering the children, are you aware many common mental health issues begin manifesting in pre-teens and early teens, such as bipolar in girls? Shall we move these children to the shuttered detox center on Weimer Road? Is this an empathetic and healthy consideration?
As president of the Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance Albuquerque chapter, former peer member of the DOJ mandated MHRAC (Albuquerque Police Department commutiny advisory board), former peer member of BCFIC (community stakeholders dedicated to jail diversion to services instead), former NAMI Albuquerque board member, and recipient of the 2017 Innovation in Behavioral Health Lifetime Achievement Award from the State of New Mexico, I’ve come to understand peers with mental health needs are no more and no less deserving of respect, kindness, and understanding as anyone else . . . because peers are any one and every one of us.
To me, rather than move an established behavioral health services facility, we as a very inclusive and diverse community have the opportunity to teach our children and families, promoting informed acceptance rather than fearful stigmas.
By the by, I am a father, son, and friend with bipolar, something some can infer by the type of articles, comments, and letters to the editor I compose. And by way of illumination, with my peer partners, we have launched a new peer education service dedicated to helping those in our communities by having peers share openly about their life experiences living with a mental health diagnosis. It’s the same variety of education program I helped develop for the Albuquerque Police Department, where law enforcement learn we are not our symptoms and we are open to collaboration with police even when in mental health crisis. We do this through sharing our stories of law enforcement interactions, helping law enforcement know what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs improvement with the goal of de-escalation rather than incarceration. And it’s working.
Stand Up To Stigma (our peer-created, peer-managed, and peer-presented organization) offers our education programs free to the community. We’d very much appreciate travelling to Taos to share our experiences for better understanding through education. And we can even bring our trained peers from Taos, people with mental health needs . . . who you might not have known are part of your community.
Did you know: The etymology of “sinister” relates to individuals who are left-handed. At one time, those with left-handedness were considered dangerous and ungodly. Interesting what we used to be afraid of, isn’t it?
Best of mental health to you,
CEO, Stand Up To Stigma
President, DBSA Albuquerque
My sis rocks. One of my fave Jimmy tunes recorded just for me. You rock, Sylvia Seren (Sarah).
By the way, this tech named Ben (I call him Ben the Tech) at Kamp Kaseman used to put Sylvia Plath “inspirational” quotes on the board every morning.
I told him, “Dude, this is a psych hospital. Sylvia Plath killed herself.”
And Techben (changed his name) said, “No she didn’t.”
So I said, “Google.”
And the next morning, no Sylvia Plath quote. Instead, Ben the Fool (changed his name) posted Kurt Cobain lyrics.
The point of all of this is being inpatient can be incredibly disempowering and outright scary. And sometimes, the staff is kinda dismissive of peers while we are feeling fragile. Ben and I were never going to be friends. And this time through Kamp Kaseman, I truly needed a point in the win column. Having a tech insisting he was “right” about Ms. Plath gave an easy avenue to self-empowerment. Score. Bonus score.
I used to see Ben when I’d visit Kamp Kaseman to present education programs. I’d say “hi” to Ben. He did not say “hi” to me. He did have to set up the DVD player for me. No documentaries on Robin Williams, thank the stars.
Reprinted with kind permission of Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.
At our Monday peer support group a peer shared a BuzzFeed series on YouTube that resonates with many peers’ recovery journey. Check it out when you have some time.
The proto-missus and I watched Silver Linings Playbook a few nights back. It was her first viewing, my fifteen billionth. It is a favorite movie of mine for a very single reason:
A major studio motion picture where the central characters are not only folks with mental health diagnoses, they are also not violent and scary and dangerous… check the left armpit of my ex-wife for icicles and her heart for slippery black ice (ha!) because I think Hell just froze over.
“The opinions of the misanthropical rest upon this very partial basis, that they adopt the bad faith of a few as evidence of the worthlessness of all.”
– Christian Nestell Bovee
Reprinted with kind permission of Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.
Originally published October 27, 2017.
This will be one of the shortest articles I offer on Thoughtcrimes, and it is special advice for the Muggles in the audience.
When it comes to AOT (Assisted Outpatient Treatment), rather than trying to convince peers AOT isn’t forced treatment try sharing what AOT can do to benefit peers instead.
Start the conversation with:
This will require some homework and analyzing AOT from a peer perspective. I feel we’re worth the effort.
Reprinted with kind permission from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.
When I first started having troubles with bipolar and was frequenting the hospital with some regularity, my parents bought a house in Albuquerque so they had someplace to o if I needed them to help me for an extended length of time. My parents are my heroes.
I check on my Dad’s house a couple times each week. Mostly, it’s to make sure the weeds are murdered – I like vegecide as much as arborcide – as well as making sure the roof isn’t leaking. Yes, in Albuquerque, we get stuff falling from the skies that damages roofs. Usually it’s frozen water. Frozen water falling from the skies. This global warming thing . . . somebody got it wrong. Somebody got it very, very wrong.
Where was I? Right, I know. Once, on checking upon my Dad’s house, I found the front door had been kicked in. The intruder tried to bolt with the TV in the living room (the only TV in the house) but my Dad’s got it wedged into this walled shelf above the fireplace, so how I found it was slightly askew. I’m telling you where to find the TV, that there is only one, and you’ll never get it if you break in to my Dad’s place. So there.
I did a quick assessment of the damage and because it seemed significant enough structurally I made a call to the police, so I could file a report in case Dad needed one. Interested neighbors are universally famous for congregating at times like this. Perhaps it’s with the hopes of potato salad like on the July 4th block party, perhaps it’s with the hopes that their home doesn’t also fall prey to a frustrated bandit. Did I mention he didn’t get the TV? Classic.
It turns out that one of Dad’s neighbors is a retired Albuquerque Police Department lieutenant. He shared that there were contractors working on the house next door and this meant there were also subcontractors. That my Dad’s place was vacant – there’s really only the TV to steal, by the by, and you can’t get it out – did not pass unnoticed, and the Lt. also shared that usually with this type of break-in the perp is a subcontractor. Contractors, do background checks on your subcontractors, please. I guess. I’m itching to turn this tale into a parable.
Oh, wait, I got it! Parable, start your engines! So I shared with the Lt. that I was active in training APD in understanding peers in crisis and ways that officers can help peers, and themselves, in deescalating a crisis call. This was not long after the James Boyd thing and APD was very sensitive to any discussion of mental health and law enforcement. We spoke for some time about what I was doing with APD, and the Lt. offered this.
I couldn’t hold back laughing. Openly laughing. Not about a perceived shortcoming of the Lt. I wasn’t laughing at him. I was laughing at me and the stupid stuff I’ve done when in crisis. My arborcide story is legend and deserves its own article. For now, I’ll say I’ve done some incredibly weird stuff when in crisis, stories I enjoy sharing with APD in their training. It’s helpful to see me when I am well because the only time APD has seen me at my abode is when I’m not well. It stands to reason. We don’t call APD when we’re not in crisis. Unless we’re lonely. I guess. Hi, it’s Steve. How are you? Just calling to see how everyone’s doing. So, fighting a lot of crime today?
Off track again. My reply after the hearty laughter was very self-aware and self-assessing. With the Lt. I shared . . .
The Lt. looked somewhat perplexed. I expanded upon my statement. “Lt., you only see peers when they are at their worst. You don’t see those times when they’re not in crisis because there’s no need for your services when we’re doing well. Crisis situations are infrequent for many of us. When we first started talking today would you have pegged me for someone who had police response for psychosis? Probably not. We walk amongst, sir, we walk amongst unnoticed because we aren’t always sick. And that’s when you see us. When we’re sick.”
He took it in, chewed it about, and shook his head in understanding. No words were necessary. He got it. And that felt so freakin’ great to make that connection.
This is a story I’ve shared with APD during Crisis Intervention Training. And it’s a story I’ve used in helping to develop CIU training. If there’s a moral to the story, law enforcement needs to understand that we aren’t our symptoms and we aren’t always symptomatic. Many officers have approached me after trainings and when they recognize me in the street. I always ask if what I’ve shared with them has helped them in the field. Many say they’ve had more successful outcomes, many say they now feel safer in mental health crisis situations. The most warm-fuzzy satisfying feedback I’ve gotten is just this:
Score. I don’t know if we’re allowed to hug a police officer on duty. It might be assault on an officer. These are uncertain times with the DOJ hanging about. What is certain is peers sharing their stories with officers is making things more successful and safer for peers and police.
What a lovely parable. Brothers Grimm, you can just clean between my toes until they are clean to my satisfaction. I’ve totally smoked your ham on this one. Take your spankin’ and scoot on back to Saxony. Score.
Reprinted with kind permission of Stand Up To Stigma.
This is one of the weirdest stigmas known to peerkind. It’s perplexing at best and audacious at best. Best to explain what I’m sharing with you. It’s not anything so significant as being relegated to “Crazy” and “Not Crazy” elevators (that was a thing at a provider service I once frequented – I kid you not – it was kind of my fault – we’ll be talking about this in our podcast) although it is significant because it suggests peers be unemployed and broke, and having money earned to spend on necessities like food, rent, mortgage, and full-on way-radical limited edition Pokémon cards are real challenges for many peers.
While I’ve always been sensitive to this specific stigma, where folks from Disability Rights New Mexico, The Rock at Noonday, the Albuquerque Police Department, the University of New Mexico, and various miscellaneous assorted politicians turned private business owner turned politicians (hats off to my main man Ricky) sit at the same advisory table as I do yet are being paid to be there, it never really struck me as immensely ingrained in the behavioral health culture as it is until a peer openly criticized me for wanting to launch Stand Up To Stigma so all peers can also be paid professionals sitting at the same advisory table (hats off to my main man Robby). Said this peer:
Bam. There it was, a peer stigmatizing another peer and a peer directly stigmatizing himself. Let’s break this down, misguided point by misguided point.
1.) You’re just in this for the money.
You betcha! The service Stand Up To Stigma provides the community has every last bit of worth as DSNM lawyer-person advocate, director of The Rock at Noonday, Albuquerque police officer, UNM provider, and politician person (I’m not certain what service many politicians provide . . . can you imagine what sort of projects could be funded if campaign funding was diverted to social services instead?).
Peers have value. Peers sharing their personal experiences and uncomfortable truths has great value. Value is not only in the vital service peers sharing of themselves provides the community, value is also monetary.
I’m uncertain why peers being compensated for their worth to the community by drawing an income is a bad thing. Being able to generate an income from a unique skill set is the definition of employment. It’s also incredibly empowering supporting oneself. Guess what? A cornerstone purpose of Stand Up To Stigma is helping peers empower themselves. How is being paid for our expertise a bad thing?
2.) It’s an honor to be invited to the table.
Yeah. Stating it flatly, the dynamic suggested is backwards. To feel it is an honor – as peers – to be invited to a table where the issues, concerns, and needs of peers are being discussed, planned, and implemented is happening without direct peer advisement seems ludicrous. It’s like inviting an astronaut to sit in on lunar mission briefings. This does not happen. Astronauts are required at the briefing table at every step of the mission development and implementation. Personally, I’m not going to strap myself into the tip of a 50 story chemical cylinder bomb if I don’t know what’s going on. That’s what test monkeys are for. It treats peers like test monkeys. Don’t worry, we’ll keep you safe. Sure. Give me a banana and this month’s copy of “Just So We’re All on the Same Page, I’m Not an Astronaut Test Monkey.”
Personally, I feel peers must be calling these meetings and inviting those who dedicate their lives to making our lives better (thank you, truly and honestly) to our table and discussing what is important to us, what we need for our successful recovery and wellness, and how we want it done. The honor is in peers bravely and openly sharing of themselves and the collaborations we require to ensure our successful recovery and wellness. “Being invited to the table” is such a miscalculation. Invitation? It’s our table!
3.) You’re doing this for the wrong reason.
I feel my expressions on the prior two misguided points touches on why the statement of “wrong reason” is so unintentionally ludicrous. What are the reasons I’m an active and dedicated peers advocate of the past eight years? There’s the being compensated for our value thing. There’s the helping peers empower themselves thing. There’s the making sure our voice is primary and our voice is heard thing. There’s the keeping both peers and the community informed of what’s important to peers thing. There’s the making sure our needs and the policies and projects implemented address and fulfill these needs thing. There’s the importance of peer education programs to be developed, managed, and engaged by peers thing (there are “peer education” programs where peers are invited to participate by Muggles). These hardly seem like “wrong reasons.” All said, do you know why I’m an active and dedicated peer advocate?
Stand Up To Stigma is just as dedicated to ensuring peers earn monetary compensation when sitting at the table. Our mission and plan details just how. We don’t expect peers we train to be volunteers forever – we ask only for their support as we initiate the go code. And yes, Sarah, Ryan, and I are making Stand Up To Stigma our livelihoods.
Go ahead. Tell me anything I’ve just shared is the “wrong reason” to go to the moon. Hold up. I’m stuck on the moon thing. Guess what? I always wanted to be an astronaut. A geologist astronaut. The moon is too close. God willing, I’ll get to go much farther than that. There are those who are passionate about reaching out to touch the stars. Then there are those who insist on touching the stars.
And one way to touch the stars is to change perceptions on peers being considered first as volunteers and paid professionals second. As a community, we can change this stigmatizing perception. And Stand Up To Stigma is dedicated and prepared to do our part as peer community leaders. So maybe I’m getting to be an astronaut after all. All I needed to do was care about people. One small step for peers. One giant leap for peerkind.
– Steve Bringe
Reprinted with kind permission of Stand Up To Stigma.