Selfless Living

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”soliciting my grandmother for money for a project and then, when she told my mother, I denied the event, blaming her misunderstanding of my behavior on her dementia…’

I’ve lived a rich & privileged life. In my youth I was resistant and disagreeable, at time challenging my peers, family, friends, and employers. Later, teachers, professors, and law enforcement. The richness of my life created opportunities for me expose myself to a tremendous amount of diversity, experiences, people, & systems. After my break, my ongoing disability would force me to accept a life of compliance with these systems I was either required to participate in, or adhere to out of fear I would either lose privileges and even my rights to live in the community.

As a therapist, many of my clients are curious about my lifestyle. Sometimes they even speculate, or think that I “side” or agree with their perspectives without soliciting my opinion. My peers do the same. I choose to share aspects of my life with clients, and peers alike, if its relevant to their struggle or problem or will help to shed additional perspective on their lives. Without getting into a monologue on regrets, I have made my share of mistakes too, but these mistakes are the learning moments which define not only my identity but has also been the point of departure in exploring my innermost demons.

One example was soliciting my grandmother for money for a project and then, when she told my mother, I denied the event, blaming her misunderstanding of my behavior on her dementia. Believe it or not, there is a learning moment to be discovered in such vile and shameful behavior. There is always a learning moment.

This discussion isn’t so much a catalog of learning moments it is a canon of cathartic epiphanies and the resultant circumstances I have discovered after battling chronic illness and ongoing misfortunes. Indeed, after my break, and requiring catastrophic round the clock medical care, I was forced to sign up for Medicaid and not have an income which exceeded the regulations around qualifying for state sponsored insurance.

In so few words, working, going out with friends & coworkers, anything that costs money is paid by the government in disability checks or my family who has been generous enough to fill in the gaps between my lifestyle, & the income coming in from the state. So, I pay to go to work. Or rather, so the state and my family pay me to go in, part-time, and work. Knowing full well after my break that I would never live a life generating substantial or even gainful income through my employer, I choose to live a life in which my work would be in the service of helping others, kindness, and respect for human life.

This is why I have chosen social work and treatment for people with chronic mental health conditions. Trust me, I wouldn’t trek into the South Bronx three times a week, putting my safety at risk each day I walk the streets, if I knew that leaving my privileged lifestyle for just a minute would improve the lives I worked with and touched with my presence.

About the Author

J. Peters

J. Peters is the Editor-in-Chief of Mental Health Affairs.

Award-winning book author and Bold 10 Under ten award recipient J. Peters, LCSW. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Mental health therapist and disability rights advocate Mr. Peters fights for those without a voice in various care systems, such as the New York City Department of Social Services, the New York State Office of Mental Health, or the city's Department of Corrections.

Mr. Peter's battle with Schizophrenia began at New London University in his last semester of college. Discharged from Greater Liberty State Hospital Center in July 2008, Jacque's recovery was swift but not painless and indeed brutal after spending six months there.

He has published several journal articles on recovery and mental health and three books: University on Watch, Small Fingernails, and Wales High School. He is also a board member of the newspaper City Voices. Mr. Peters currently sits on the CAB committee (Consumer Advisory Board) for the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene in NYC and the Office of Mental Health (OMH) as a peer advocate.

Owner of Recovery Now in New York, a private psychotherapy practice, Mr. Peter's approach is rooted in a foundation of evidence-based practices (EBP). Jacques earned a master's degree in Social Work from Binghamton University and worked as a field instructor for master's and bachelor's level students in NYC.

He is blogging daily on his site mentalhealthaffairs.blog, Mr. Peters regularly writes articles relating to his lived experience with a mental health diagnosis.

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