I swear that they are trying to put weight on my at work. Since it is the time to exchange presents and express our feelings, I should explain that the best thing I did was apply for and pass the certification test for peer support specialists in March. Soon afterwards a job fell into my lap and then another one. I looked at the pay stubs each time I received them and I almost could not believe it. If anyone tells you peer specialists are not in the profession just to get paid, tell them to try living on what I was paid for several years. Tell them to be one of those underemployed seeking full time work. I now earn enough to take care of myself which will include repaying old debts but that’s better than feeling ashamed to face people.
This is why we need to prioritize improved wages and benefits for peer support specialists. And we need to feel proud when we go to work and have respect from our co-workers like social workers, psychiatrists and others. And many of us who are working in the field are in situations with other mental health workers. I forgot nurses. It is a medical model whose culture we need to learn enough to be able to change it. If peers develop more supports through work and education then the model will need to adapt to meet their new and different needs.
There is room for peer run respite centers, too, just as Dryhootch America has carved a niche for itself with veterans. I am so busy it is hard to find time to do all the things I would like. I just hope there are others doing those things. The medical model has a lot of good things about it. I went to the VA this last week and found it was pleasantly efficient. I will need to pay off my copays or forget about my tax refund but that’s not bad. I felt listened to and entitled to help as a result of my service. I have heard that the VA is integrating new models of peer support. I got assistance signing up for something that will help put my VA health records at my fingertips. This was from a peer with a beard as long as Santa’s.
As I walked the hallways I found myself saying hello and being greeted. It felt different and wonderful. At times I have tried to ignore others as much as possible. But it’s time to open myself up to a new way of doing things and feeling hopeful. It’s time for certification to take root in my life. Have a happy holiday everyone.
- Peer Support Relationships: Tips for Ending Well (peerwork.wordpress.com)