Dear Fellow Survivor,
Thank you for taking an interest in the work that we do. You clicked on this page, so allow me to share a bit more about myself.
In terms of my professional story, and why I do what I do, I have an educational background in psychology and social work and have personally facilitated similar peer-led programs in my local community. Throughout over a decade of professional experience, I have also coached other successful peer facilitators, have developed therapeutic and leadership-based curriculums, and also have experience in counselling. Along with this, I am a certified suicide-intervention trainer and have solid skills in crisis intervention. I have personally observed and evaluated the therapeutic benefit of peer-led programs, particularly when art is used as a form of expression, as well as the therapeutic impact on individuals who take on leadership roles and become Peer Facilitators in order to help others.
But I don’t want you just to see me as a ‘professional’ as this goes against the notion of Peer-led programs and being able to relate to the ones we serve. That’s why I want to share a little bit of my personal story too and I’m hoping you can relate to some aspect of it so you realize that ‘I get it,’ and also so that you know that just because you have experienced mental health challenges (or even continue to experience them from time to time) doesn’t mean that you can’t lead others or make a difference in someone else’s life.
I have personally struggled with on-and-off depressive periods since I was 8 years old. At that time, it was not defined as depression, but just ‘negative attitude’ to the closest people in my life. It often felt very lonely and I didn’t quite know what was ‘wrong’ with me.
Flash forward to 2003, I was fresh out of University and I had the world at my fingertips, so to speak. This was me at a wedding in Italy. Maybe in the picture, I look like a young woman who was calm and relatively secure, but during that Italy trip my anxiety and depression crept up on me even there! Behind that young woman’s eyes was a lot of insecurity, very low self-esteem, and not feeling like I ever quite measured up. I hid all that pent up emotion behind a mask, as I’m sure some of you probably do, and the saddest thing was, I thought I needed someone to ‘complete me’ because I wasn’t quite good enough being me and on my own.
In 2007, things were going relatively well in my life (or so I thought), as depression goes up. I was getting married, thought I had hit the jackpot when it came to in law relationships, and felt that me life was just starting out. I seemed to base everything on my exterior circumstances then, rather than my own inner strength.
It was a just a little over a year after when I became a mom to my firstborn, and while it was a truly awe-inspiring time, I went through postpartum depression, to the point where I felt my life was over. I remember feeling so incredibly guilty that I would feel this way when I ‘should’ be feeling joyful because that was what I was told I should feel. I was fortunate that the postpartum eventually passed, but once that settled down, everything else seemed to fall a part all around me with some key family relations. This really impacted my whole reality of the word ‘family.’ I realized after that experience that nothing on the outside can make us happy forever, not marriage, career, friends, hobbies, not even children, and that the things that once might have brought us happiness can change on a dime. This is not to be pessimistic, but it was a lesson that I learned that in order to face my depression and live with it, it was all about finding peace within myself.
I am still on this journey, but I can really truly say that life is hopeful and has wonderful moments within it, not because of what someone else thinks of me, or what I’m getting at a certain point of time, but because of the hope within me. The imperfect and sometimes messy, but beautiful journey I’m on as I continue to grow wiser and do things to help myself day by day to live the best life I can.
It’s like life dumping out cans of paint and at first it looks like a heck of a mess, but as you look at the bigger picture you can see the possibilities and create something beautiful out of the chaos. This is one of the reasons we focus on expressive-art healing here at ARToverMind.com.
I hope you will come on this healing journey with us, and use peer leadership as a way to not only support others, but continue to create your own beautiful masterpiece. Consider registering today for one of our PEER Facilitator Certification Trainings.