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2021-04-23

Peer Specialists risk getting bit in the ass.

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If it is not the illness it is the people we are supposed to be helping.
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It is not the illness. It is the people we are supposed to be helping.

How much do we disclose to them? What is the limit on honesty and openness? I disclosed early on in my career. I just could not be bothered hiding the fact that I was just as “out there” as the people I worked with.

The difference was that I had gone through training and learned how to live with the “normals”. I knew how to talk with them, I competed with them on their academic turf. In short, I straddled both worlds. Sometimes howling in the hospitals, other times having drinks and finger food with the boss.

My first time having my diagnosis shoved in my face was with a woman who stated loudly and clearly in one of my groups that:

“everyone knows you have problems.”

Peer workers exist in two dimensions. On the one hand, they are paid to use their experience effectively with the clients. On the other hand, they go home to a life somewhat marginalized and jeopardized by the illness.

The insidious, dangerous illness, which if not properly put in its place threatens to wreak havoc with hard won economic, social and psychological gains.

I supervised peer interns from Howie the Harp. For the most part they were wonderful to work with. I met my match, however, in a wild little devil that insisted on reporting me as unfit because I had told her to comb her hair and button her shirt. Luckily, staff had my back.

The next intern insisted on going over my head to the director and workers she considered more competent because they weren’t peers like I was.

So I went offline and waited her internship out in the psych spa. I came back when she was gone and told my director I was through supervising peer interns. I knew my limits.

Peers workers are people who somehow pulled themselves out of a hole. Now they stand on solid ground, and throw a rescue line down into the abyss. Jealousy, resentment, rage get in the way.

No matter. It is a crazy happy day in the neighborhood, and ain’t no one gonna mess with my high.

About the Author

Ember Manos Belle

Ember Manos Belle is a 'Systems Advocate' and Behavioral Health Therapist in the NYC area. Ember is the author of Climbing Towards November (2009), and Pause in the Western Rhythm (2019).
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