Back from my first round of the Peer Support Specialist certification process, I come victorious with my Basic Training diploma… and a nasty-ass chest cold. Ah, the yin/yang of life! There’s something oh-so poetic about how the instructor whispered to me that I’d gotten a perfect score on the test (I thought you maybe had answers written on your arm or something), and I then high-fived him with a hand crawling with virulent lung cooties.
I’m thinking it was the murky hotel pool. Or maybe the phlegmy air conditioner in my room. Whatever the source, my immediate surge of snot and fever kept me from enjoying any delights Council Bluffs had to offer—except for the Hy Vee pharmacy. I collapsed in my room after our daily instruction with the cable guide and as many styrofoam cups as I could carry. The hotel offered a hot breakfast every morning and kept the beverages available all day. I barked my thanks to the staff for this service since I needed all the hot tea and orange juice I could down.
The class itself was not at all what I expected. As a Peer, our most important asset is our own story—it’s how we can relate to others suffering with their mental illness and how they can begin to see some hope for recovery. Much of the training centered around how to tell that story effectively, how to use it in different ways to either draw a client out, put them at ease, or offer a new perspective. There was one day of dry legalese (state regulations, code of ethics, HIPPA laws, etc.), but most of the time we focused on The Story and the skills we needed to use it well.
I loved it. And I liked our instructor—also someone with “lived experience,” as the lingo goes. Since there was only one other student in this particular class, the three of us went out to lunch each day and got to know each other. It was a lovely, intimate experience and made learning all that more fun.
I was worried about memorizing some of the drier stuff for the exam, but we received a pre-test, which took away the anxiety and gave me something specific to study. I was shocked that I did so well, but feel even more confident now in pressing on to take the Advanced Training and to sit for the State Board Certification afterward. Like our instructor, Dr. Daniels, kept saying, “We can do some stuff.”
For now, I’ll tend this infection, go to the doctor for the high-powered antibiotics and inhaler that can knock it back, and not repeat last fall. Last year I was sick with this crud for months, then was depressed for months, then ended up in the hospital— where I first heard about Peer Support Specialists. Everything has a purpose. There are no accidents. But, this year I’d rather circle around to a different lesson. And maybe I can pass that one, too.