Peer Support has given me many gifts, the greatest one being it has helped me to heal my relationship with myself.
Lauren, a Peer Support Worker with Bipolar Scotland, tells us what peer support means to her.
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Back in early 2018, following a serious manic episode, I was in the midst of what I can only describe as the deepest depression of my life. It was winter, I was walking home from an appointment with my Clinical Practice Nurse (CPN), and I had never felt so hopeless. I didn’t know how much more I could take, everything just seemed so dark. But in my favour, I kept putting one small step in front of the other and a couple of months later I was presented with an amazing opportunity. The chance to host my own show on my local radio station. It was a lifeline. I chose to focus the show on mental health & wellbeing. I had a purpose and it marked the beginning of a slow but solid recovery.
Becoming a Peer Support Worker
Fast forward 2 years, and having been volunteering with them for a while, an opportunity arose within Bipolar Scotland to join their team in one of their brand-new Peer Support Worker roles. Just as with my radio show, I felt this could be an amazing opportunity and a way to give something back. I could provide hope to others, and share with them my experience, that like me they could and would recover.
The gift of peer support
Peer Support has given me many gifts, the greatest one being it has helped me to heal my relationship with myself. Just as I aspire to provide a non-judgemental, supportive and listening ear to others, I have learned to offer this to myself. I have become a lot more accepting of my condition. I also have greater empathy for others because I now have greater empathy for myself. I have acknowledged the difficult road I have travelled, and the pain and suffering it has caused me. But amidst the pain there have been hidden gems – immense learnings and personal growth. Through listening to and identifying with my peers, we have come to recognise unhelpful thought patterns and behaviours that have kept us stuck. Together we have laughed about these and shared some incredible solutions!
The beauty in balance
One of the key messages I always try to share is that our mental health difficulties are not our fault, but our recovery is our responsibility. I feel it’s an empowering message. Another key theme that arises is the beauty in balance, something so precious to those of us with bipolar disorder. Peer support is a wonderful example of balance – the give and take. It gives us opportunities to show our vulnerabilities and discuss our fears, frustrations and enjoy an amazing sense of connection that results.
I agree that Peer Support has enormous potential to create a beautiful and powerful web of support, hope & inspiration, not only here in Scotland but throughout the world too. I feel exceptionally grateful for being given the opportunity, through my ongoing work with Bipolar Scotland to play my part.