New WisdomWithin Episode On Air!

Our WisdomWithin Podcast has just published its newest episode – first of our Lived Experience series – it’s “The Teens & Tough Stuff & Project Semi-colon” Episode.  This discussion tackles some tough topics, including the increasing prevalence of youth suicide, but also a very life affirming message, including from “Project;”, and from studies showing that the very nature of the problem itself,  has led today’s young people to be more open and willing to seek mental health help than their own parents may have been brought up to be. While it might sound like a hard listen, it’s actually sending a significant, positive message – and so, we continue… ;

Here is a direct link to the podcast episode for you:—The-Teens–Tough-Stuff–Project-Semi-colon-Episode–Lived-Experience-Series-e3sbad

20th Podcast Episode On Air!

WisdomWithin Podcast Episode #20! Hard to believe this accomplishment in just two short months! We continue to love the work we do. We remain grateful for every listen, every share, every comment, every suggestion! We can be direct messaged here on the website, or via twitter @KathleenSurline, or @WisdomWithin, or via direct voice message by tuning in to our podcast on the app. We look forward to hearing from you soon! In the meantime, here is a direct link to our 20th podcast episode:–Radical-Acceptance–To-Be-Not-To-Do–Get-GoodPractice-Episode-e3pjpn

Academy of Peer Services Virtual Learning Community Project Features WisdomWithin Podcast

Delighted, as Academy of Peer Services student/alum, to have our new podcast project featured by their Virtual Learning Community! The VLC is a project of the Academy of Peer Services, intended to create a bridge from knowledge (learned in APS courses) and applied skills, to practice in peer support and supervision in the workforce.

The Academy of Peer Services  is a venture of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) and Rutgers University School of Health Professions (SHP) with funding from the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH). The Academy of Peer Services is separate from, but works in collaboration with, the New York Peer Specialist Certification Board to ensure quality education, training, and professional development of the peer support workforce in New York State.

Newest Podcast Episode On Air!

We got a bit behind this last week, but are happily back to the airwaves with our newest installment of the WisdomWithin podcast, focusing on calming our noisy minds! Thanks for the great feedback to date! We look forward to your continuing comments, constructive criticism and suggestions!—The-Calming-Our-Noisy-Minds-Episode-e3hjct

In Support of Peer Support…

An invited article on the meaning of peer support to the peer support professional in mental health and wellness:

While I haven’t yet been “working” in our field, I have been working hard (as a volunteer) since earning New York Certified Peer Specialist (NYCPS) certification in May 2016. My purpose in obtaining certification and my focus since, has been around development of programming in mental health awareness, education and advocacy.

I didn’t know there was such an entity as a peer specialist when I was diagnosed or in the early years of my recovery.  There was a time, I thought I’d never be well enough to be of use to anyone in an actual job again, and before my illness, I had worked since I was 12 years old! I worked long and hard for many years, in many roles. I learned a lot. Then my illness took over and I learned even more.

It was several years in to my recovery journey when I found the NYCPS coursework and application online, I thought, here is a way to somehow contribute in the world again. Since certification, I’ve worked with organizations in the early development stages of peer support programming; I’ve developed an awareness/education/advocacy website in support of those who seek resources and information as a peer or family member. It includes lots of resources, basic support information and blog articles written to encourage peers and families in self-advocacy and wellness. I’ve guest blogged for Academy of Peer Services. I’ve guest-edited a recent online newsletter for international Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS). I’ve also been working on a presentation for Western NY Girl Scouts, to help them earn the Mental Health Awareness patch, available through the International Bipolar Foundation.

I share all of this, not to toot my horn, but to sort of explain that I am not doing peer support work “in the field”, i.e., in someone’s home, or traveling around a specific region for one organization’s peer programming. Not that I don’t want to. But, I do recognize my own level of recovery. I recognize what I am capable of. I recognize what I am not yet capable of. That’s important in peer work. I believe, if we have the passion to use our lemons to batch up some lemonade, then we should do so, even if we don’t yet, or ever, fit everyone’s specific mold. I believe that has to be okay. There’s more than enough work to be done in this effort. We need all of us.

In sharing these thoughts though, I’m making the point of this article. You never know in what way you will be of support to a peer, or a fellow peer supporter. You may not recognize that you are being that voice an individual needs at a certain time. You may find, after talking with a peer, that you are thinking more clearly on a certain topic, or that some small part of a conversation the two of you had, has put a light on a missing piece to resolve your current puzzlement. Each interaction is an opportunity.

As Peer Specialists, we maintain that fine line between peer and support; the clients we serve are not intended as personal relationships, but recovery relationships in support of the clients’ goals. Yet, still in recovery ourselves, we may often find ourselves very much in need of our own outlet to vent to, or pose a hypothetical to, or doubt ourselves in front of, or question the process with, or insert your topic of the moment here: _______________.

You get my point. The value in peer support is not only in what we offer for our clients, but what we informally offer each other. By continued, open discussion, forum dialog, conference attendance for those able to do so; webinar participation, group projects, and so forth. We are all recovering, every day. No matter how much good we want to put out into this world, we are wise to recognize where we are in our own recovery, be understanding of the timing in the recovery journey of others, and be respectful and mutually supportive of everyone’s contribution. The fact that we are able to support one another, while we work to support others toward self-advocacy and recovery, makes us stronger in our work. We inherently find ourselves exemplars of the peer support model, both as supported and supporter; talking the talk while walking the walk.

Rumblings for thought…

imageWith the caveat that WisomWithin appreciates and respects everyone’s political views, rights AND responsibilities, this post is not about liberal or conservative, or anything in between.

But, here I am to say, that there it was recently. Someone spoke it aloud in public. You may very likely have heard rumblings; the assertion that the new president is mentally ill. The most vocal was Dan Rather, I’ll come back to that.

As someone who, by sheer nature of my work, ethically obligates to share my own journey of wellness and recovery in living with mental health diagnoses, I can certainly empathize with, and understand,  the … disquiet … such suggestion might raise in … well … anyone.

I am not a doctor. I walk my walk, and talk with folks who are living with mental health conditions, those who think they may have such a condition, and anyone who cares about these fine folks. And pretty much, everybody knows somebody, so I talk with everybody.

Ok, that said, and back to anyone proposing that someone else is mentally ill.

Lets just consider the idea for a moment, that this person, specifically, is not a president. Let’s say, this is a fellow human, who may or may not be living with a mental health condition. Our our goal here is simply to provide information to help folks living with such possibilities.

What are the signs or symptoms, or the behaviors involved? What behavior has been visible?

  • Insecurity possibly? As an analogy, I short-version this individual to the man hiding behind the curtain in the Wizard if Oz, projecting the huge head on the screen, bellowing insistence that the audience believe everything he says, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. Even when the curtain reveals him.
  • Obsessive tendencies? Outwardly, significant focus on … size … of … things (trying  to keep a sense of humor where possible here). Seriously though, his intense focus on his numbers, his rationalizations for his numbers, his readiness to investigate his rationalizations for numbers… and so on.
  • Obvious compulsions? How do I say this? Tweeting. To the point of international diplomacy (or lack thereof) in the Twitterverse. Name the social media venue of individual addictive behavior.
  • Self-obsessed? “My crowd, my businesses, my TV show, my way…”. Everything about him is better than anything, ever. Needing to be the center of focus at all times. Needing to have the last word.
  • Lying, a LOT? Truly, to the point of believing everything he says and getting angry and spiteful with anyone who calls him on it?
  • Lack of empathy or conscience? No obvious remorse for anything he says or does that might be horribly painful or insulting or judgmental or publicly vilifying about, to … well … any one person … or any entire group of people?

I don’t know this human personally. I have, however, lived with humans exactly like him. They were diagnosed with severe mental health conditions. I have loved them and advocated for them and fought for them for many years. The nature of such illness is treatable, but, only when the person recognizes and takes responsibility for their condition.

My own diagnoses were nothing like what’s described. Nonetheless, I live with major depression, PTSD and anxiety disorder. What is the same, however, is the necessity to recognize and take responsibility for my condition. Every day.

I will leave you with this thought for the moment:

The intense nature of my job at the time of my diagnoses, and the combined severity of my symptoms, required that my doctor take me out of work immediately. I was not fit to serve in the office I’d been hired to.

It was devastating, and frightening and humiliating and awful and absolutely necessary. For my own recovery, and for everyone I worked with and worked for.