Friday, May 31, 2013

My Experience as a Peer Support Worker

Sometimes we learn better from someone with lived experience who has walked the same path.  That’s what I feel makes a Peer Support Worker so valuable --it’s first-hand experience. 

When I was struggling with an eating disorder, I remember feeling more understood and at ease with someone who had recovered from an eating disorder themselves.  To this day I truly believe there are some aspects of an eating disorder that just cannot be explained or taught.  The intense fear that rises when taking that first bite of a meal, that vicious dark cloud of loneliness that follows you everywhere you go, the blurry haze that separates you from your loved ones as you strain your weary eyes to break free….some of these things are just, indescribable.

This is one of the reasons why I took on the role as an Eating Disorder PeerSupport Worker at the KeltyMental Health Resource Centre.  When I first meet with people and they begin to tell me their story, I feel as if I already know them.  There seems to be this underlying connection of a shared struggle, an understanding that they are not alone in their experience.  I honestly believe that Peer Support ultimately gives people hope, as I show them day after day of a living example that recovery is possible.  Whether it’s to parents, youth, student counselors, teachers, service providers, adults, professionals, dietitians  roommates, friends, coaches, etc., I bring a unique capacity to feel empathy and aim to help people with the same common goal: recovery.  The tricky part is, everyone’s recovery looks different – it’s about finding what works and pushing out of that comfort zone that’s important!  So as I listen and provide valuable first-hand coping skills, I always let the person or family know I am not there to judge, it is not their fault, and most importantly, they are not alone. I encourage people to trust that it will get easier and continue to take small challenges.  Like jumping out of a plane, you must trust that the parachute will open. 

People say that recovery is the most difficult thing they have ever done.  But I have to say it is also the most worthwhile, the most rewarding, and the accomplishment I, to this day, remain proudest of.


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