Life is an experience.
That’s all it is.
You can hate it, you can love it, you can take it for granted, but at the end of it we’re all reduced to the same fate. For anyone to take anything so serious that it completely thwarts their vision to the fact that it’s okay to wake up and not know what you’re going to do that day, or that it’s okay to wake up and hate everything, or that it’s okay to be a little different, is only fooling themselves.
Remember, a winner is not someone who never fails, but someone who never quits.
Experiences are good and bad and life is a conglomeration of them all. Expect horrible things to happen now and then. Expect good things to happen now and then. But, don’t ever expect that you’re privileged enough to not experience one of the two.
I work at a peer run mental health respite house called Second Story. I’d link you to something but . . . we don’t have a website and the last time I linked something, the entire organization of Intentional Peer Support found my article and that was honestly a little embarrassing. Granted, they loved the article and published it on their Facebook/website or whatever. Still. I said, as a joke in the article, that my first impression of the trainer dude was that he was a hippie and described his exact clothing. And he read that shit.
Anyway, I’ve read articles about Second Story in a magazine called Mad In America. There are videos on YouTube about Second Story. In the state of California, they were the first mental health respite house. In the United States, they were the seventh. They’ve been open almost six years now. Apparently, there are about thirty respite houses in the U.S now.
I found them by typing “psychology” into a job search engine and applied.
At the same time, I was offered a position at a behavioral therapy center for eighteen dollars an hour. Eighteen dollars a fucking hour. That’s a lot for someone like me who has no degree and hardly any experience in anything. I held off confirming anything with them until I heard back from Second Story.
Technically, the respite is almost like an alternative to a psychiatric hospital. If you’re struggling and you are connected with county coordinators or psych doctors through the county and you have housing and you’re not conserved or on a sex offender list and you’re over 18, you can come stay with us.
We have a “WarmLine” phone number you can call and talk to someone 24/7. It’s not like a suicide hotline where the people just ask “do you have a plan?” “will you be safe tonight?”. No, this is a line to call when you’re looking for someone who understands what you’re going through. It’s a line to have a conversation.
How glorious it would be to have enough money and be big enough to open the doors to people who are not connected to the county. But I’m willing to bet fifty dollars before you read this post, a “mental health respite house” was foreign language to you.
We’re completely voluntary. Come and go as you like, just let us know if you’re going to be back late because we do require you stay in the house overnight. We can be flexible depending on the circumstances. You can stay for two weeks, and if you seem to be working on your goals and participating in the house we are always open to granting an extension. Once again, it’s also flexible depending on the circumstances.
We’re all peers. We know how depression feels or anxiety or the experience of hearing voices or feeling manic and whatever else you can think of: PTSD, trauma, addictions, general mood issues, confusion, e.t.c; I’m not going to list every human emotion for Christ’s sake.
Because that’s basically what it is. Anything a human can or has experienced: we’ve hopefully got at least one person who has experienced something similar.
So we don’t go prodding around your “diagnosis”. Because we don’t really talk about diagnosis; it’s not the point. I’ve very, very rarely heard words like “schizophrenia” or “bipolar” used in this house to explain an experience or a person.
I’ve heard the experiences of what a professional would probably use to categorize one of those disorders talked about in the house. I’m on both sides: the textbook and the experience side. For fucks sake, I own both the DSM 4 and DSM 5. Sure, I could have gone into this house and talked to a guest and immediately categorized their speech as “loose association” or their thoughts as “delusional”. But if I went in and did that, I’m saying it’s okay that 1) someone do that to me and 2) that this person is only saying these things because of this disorder and 3) it’s not worth my time to listen to “rambles” because it’s the “disorder” speaking.
And that’s how the mental health system handles people, that’s how I learned to talk and see things. It’s not what I believed, but it was what I learned.
I remember I used the word “delusional” in my interview with them, now I feel like a fucking tool for it. Seriously, that memory haunts me every time I walk in there.
And to act like some egotistical, medical prick wasn’t why I decided to send in a cover letter to Second Story. I applied to be able to connect not just for others, but for myself as well.
One thing I love about Second Story is that it’s not “anti-psychiatry”. It’s not “fuck you, medicine” or “fuck you, psych docs”. It’s completely distant from all of that extremist stuff, where people rant all day but really do nothing to impact anyone, which was where I was heading very, very quickly. Instead, it’s focused on the real people, it’s focused on working together. We’re in the bottom of the industry’s mixing pot, but from being with these people I see none of that bullshit matters. None of it fucking matters you guys. NONE of it.
Fuck the money. Fuck trying to shove Alex Gorsky/Johnson and Johnson’s ego down their throats. Fuck all that negativity. It’s not about your disorder. It’s not about your doctor. It’s not about telling psychiatry that it kills. It’s not about any of this monopoly fucking industrial fake bullshit.
It’s about getting through the experience of life together. It’s about being able to share your story and have it be heard and feel that relief when someone else says “I know what you feel like because I’ve been there”. That makes way more of a difference to that person than your rant on Psych Forums about how all anti-psychotic medications are poison.
Not saying they’re not. Just saying your rant really serves no other purpose than to get out some anger for you. Which is great for you.
Watching these people come in and out and face their demons head on, whether they want to or not, has given me the strength to try and do the same myself. Because now that I see it in them, now that I see they’re struggling right beside me and still moving forward, I know it’s possible.
And that’s the power of peer support.
P.S Fuck Alex Gorsky.
Sorry. That’s the last of my negativity towards the industry. I had to get it out.