What is Peer Support?
At Alyssum, we define a "peer" as someone who has experienced significant life challenges due to mental and emotional issues within their own psyche. Frequently these challenges have resulted in a challenged capacity to function in the world, a feeling of not being understood and of being thought of as "wrong or broken" by the people surrounding them. The experience usually includes a major shift in world view and a significant adjustment to a different way of living and experiencing life, which can sometimes be for the better.
We believe that people who have like experiences can better relate and consequently offer more authentic empathy and validation. Strong mutual relationships and supports within the community create a wider support base, and the awareness that we are not alone is overwhelmingly empowering.
Peer support works to build trust in relationships. We look to learn from each other and grow together. We examine things from new angles and develop greater awareness of personal and relational patterns. Peer support is trauma-aware, which means asking "what happened to you?" Together we use relationship, listening and dialogue to create new ways of seeing, thinking, and doing. We work to make sense of how each of us has learned to cope and live with our experiences. We examine not only our individual perspectives, but also relationships, community and world-views.
Through peer support we look at our own sense of self, and who we believe ourselves to be with the support and validation of others who have been there. We can learn the ability to be mindful, and to recognize discomfort as a tool for growth rather than a feeling to be feared. Through acceptance and non-judgment we examine world-view and personal experiences, and work together to create the ability to safely make positive changes.
At Alyssum we believe in the power of mutual learning and respect. Self-empowerment through recognizing strengths and validating individual learning experiences opens up a new lens to greater and greater possibilities of growth and emergence through crisis into a more whole and capable self.
A Poem written at Alyssum from one of our Peers
I've Lost Me I've Lost Myself.
Where did I go? I remember me, not so long ago. Happy, healthy, a little carefree.
Why in the world did I lose me?
My job, my friends.All set aside.
To explore something, that damaged my pride.
It seems a pattern that's getting old, and to break away is worth more then gold.
So, I start today and say good-bye, to all the loves that made me cry.
I'll take the high road that's long and steep.
Believing in the rewards I'll reap.
My sense of self never lost again.
As I learn to be my own best friend.
~ Jennifer ~