In today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel there were stories of very flawed men. Father Matthew Gottschalk, who co-founded the House of Peace with Brother Booker Ashe, another troubled individual, retired recently after it was disclosed he had an inappropriate relationship with a minor years ago. Age and health issues had also played a role although he remained very popular. He was there when I interned at the House of Peace and was already in his 80s.
Another sad story involved a minister whose wife wrote to Miss Manners for advice because he had to resign from his ministry due to misconduct at a previous parish. Now the wife feels sorrow because she misses the connections she had with the young people at their former church. Some of these individuals are getting married but she and her husband are not being invite to the weddings. In her own way Miss Manners reminded the troubled wife that the misconduct must have been very specific and there were probably good reasons why no one would want to see her husband as they moved on with their new lives.
The final story of human frailty involved the story of Forrest Gregg, former Green Bay Packers half of fame football player and coach. He now lives with Parkinson’s, probably a result of his days being slapped in the head by numerous defensive linemen. He played in 188 straight games despite suffering numerous injuries including concussions. He was driven to play through the pain by his coach, Vince Lombardi. He tried to instill that same mentality in his players when he coached Green Bay. Unfortunately, the ethic of sacrificing one’s life for the team was waning and a lot of players resisted him. He ended his career as a losing coach. He stands as a monument to a time that showed what was wrong with sport. The unions are much stronger, the equipment has improved, the salaries much higher and there is greater understanding of the risks that players are taking. Players are more serious about concussions and some of them are retiring early to pursue other careers.
These stories about the flaws these men carry tell us about the struggles of men. It’s not all that easy to admit you have problems and to seek help. We have church doctrine about “infallibility” and yet people make mistakes. I’ve made my share, too.
When I came to Wisconsin I was a professional librarian paid by the State of Wisconsin. However, at the end of my probation, I was not retained. The same thing happened years later when I was a librarian for the city of Milwaukee. I got married, saved money and started feeling secure. Before I knew it, that job was gone, too. And eventually so was the marriage. I entered and left a few other professions before peer support found me. Unfortunately I was very different from many peer supp0rt specialists.
I was never considered disabled, had not been forcibly medicated and lacked history with the county mental health system. All I knew was that I had lost myself and various relationships because of the way that I acted. And I needed to change. Change is often more gradual than any of us could ever imagine. As in more than 7 years after entering this field, I now have a job that offers the kind of pay and benefits that I need. Gradual as in feeling accepted and valued because of my quirks. Gradual as in being listened to and acknowledged and encouraged.
Certified peer support is not Nirvana, however. Not all of the jobs being offered are full time. We have to look closely at the requirements for these positions. A friend called Alternatives in Psychological Consultation and found the job was not to her liking. The agency was very unclear on what it wanted, the pay that it would offer and the duties that would be required. Does that sound like an employer you could trust?
In my interview I found that I was being offered everything that I requested in terms of benefits and pay. Afterwards, I almost wished that I had requested an even higher pay rate. Luckily, I decided that once I proved myself, the money would be no object. But I still have not addressed the idea of being working class. The program Mike and Molly focuses on a couple who are not the type of people you normally see on television, because they are large not slender. And they are working class: she is a school teacher and he is a policeman. They’re public employees, probably belong to unions and have livable wages and benefits. It’s solidly working class.
It’s the lifestyle to which I aspired. All those years I sat in radical political meetings, that’s what I wanted. My belief is that we would be better served by having mental health c9nsumers return to the working class. I wonder how many others share that vision.