Sharing Stories of Recovery

I was given a great opportunity to share the story and history of the Apogee Center today. An individual who connected to our Center during an extremely dark time now has a monthly radio show on the local broadcast station. The story is traditionally about the history of Columbia County. This month he decided to branch out and also cover the services available to help those struggling. We talked a bit about the history of the peer services movement, but mostly we talked about how individuals lives have changed because of the Center. There were two individuals who shared some inspiring personal stories of transformation. It was such a great opportunity to reestablish the reason for this work. To prepare for the interview, I did some digging about what peer support is.

Peer support is a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful. Peer support is not based on psychiatric models and diagnostic criteria. It is about understanding another’s situation empathically through the shared experience of emotional and psychological pain. When people find affiliation with others whom they feel are “like” them, they feel a connection.

Peer Support changes that dynamic. It asks individuals, not what is wrong but what happened along their life journey? Peer Supports also ask what is strong about the person? What is working within the person, and how can what is working be strengthened to leverage changes the person is seeking for their life. The entire mental health system is shifting. There is a greater focused being placed on recovery-The process of change in which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. The old belief that mental health struggles are a lifelong condition which one suffers through is being replaced by a greater understanding that the mental health challenges can be managed and/or overcome entirely. It has been through this transformation that peer support services have expanded.

I felt so honored and humbled to be present while individuals shared their stories of recovery. To hear, and be reminded, that the ability to listen and connect based on a shared experience can be the thing that shifts individuals from despair to hope. I’m truly grateful for all the individuals who share their story with me and allow me to be a part of their journey.

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Warriors of Hope

Last night I had the privilege of attending the annual Community Services Board dinner. It never ceases to amaze me who attends these types of events. I’m continually surprised by the faces and the history that enriches our small community. Yes these are often events in which those with privilege mix and mingle with others of privilege, but it isn’t as cynical as one might want to believe it is. I am inspired by the amount of individuals who have dedicated their lives to trying to improve our community. As is custom, the Director of Community Services gave opening remarks. That night, it was a different tone than I’d expected, or am used to listening in on. It wasn’t about the struggles our community experiences, or applaud for the obstacles we have overcome. It was about hope, despair, comradery, and the believe that each one of us has the power the change the world. He renewed my sense of hope, that in a world which often has us feeling overwhelmed, overburdened, and under-supported, that there is us. His tribe, the Warriors of Hope. He talked about how despair runs rampant in the human experience. Not just within individuals who participated in community services, but in those of us who work in this field. It is that despair, that leads to the dark and lonely experience. And there is much to despair in this world. There are many individuals living without shelter, those without food, individuals and families who are being crippled by the very systems that should be offering relief. There is violence, discrimination, and unjust practices at every turn. The widening gap between those with and those without breeds despair and distrust. These cyclones of emotions are tearing down the fibers of our community. Even with all that stacked so high, there are so many of us who have been called to be Warriors to Hope. To continue to claw and scrape away the festering despair to shine light on the hope that must be ever present. In a system of help that often divides, he reminded us all that we are one army. We are the army of warriors who fight side by side, day after day, to bring hope to a world being overtaken by despair. We may not always agree on the way in which we bring hope, it was a reminder that we are all on the same side. It was a refreshing charge to draw upon the strengths of each other to continue to work on bringing inspiration, passion, and hope to those we interact with. For me, it was a much needed reminder that although it often feels like I am the lone dutch boy with my finger in the damn, there are so many others standing alongside helping. I ask each of you, are you living your days like a Warrior of Hope? Can you draw upon the strengths and resilience of others when despair creeps into your heart? Despair is a dark and deep cave in which we often become lost and disoriented, it plays tricks on the mind, body, soul of those sucked inside. But there is Hope. And there are Warriors of Hope within all of us to reach out and shine light into the cave of despair. After the remarks last night, my Warrior flag is high. I’m ready to take on the energy of despair. I hope that each of you are also willing to fight alongside me.



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I’ve been told that real love is seeing yourself in another.

While my spirituality tells me that I am one with the universe.

Connected to everything and everyone, it can be no other way.

As a human being, my being tells me I have everything I need.

My humanness says, (or should I say my ego asks) but do you

have everything you want, as it’s always needy.


At this juncture, it’s all a matter of what perspective I choose.

For if I decide I want what I have, I’ll always have what I want.

Gratitude is the mechanism that relieves me from searching  

the rest of my life for something I don’t need and will never find.

Gratitude allows me to love and trust myself today, a complete

being, just as I am.


When I start to think about other humans more than I think about

myself most of my problems seem to vanish. I try to reframe the

rest as suggestions for what to work on next. When I see someone

I don’t like I’m not seeing them at all, only a reflection of something

I don’t like about myself, another suggestion perhaps.


As humans in this form, we’re not here for long, so I try to stop

wasting time and energy coming up with solutions for problems

that only exist in my head. That has cleared up my thinking and

allowed me to realize that I can validate myself. No longer do I

need to spend the time or energy searching for someone to do

that for me.


I can’t go out and find happiness only tire myself out looking.

All I can do is to create the space where it can happen and be

in a receptive state when it does. Also, I can’t fix anybody only

ruin myself trying. What I can do is give them hope that things

can get better by example. Not to mention nobody is broken. I

wasn’t fixed once I found the right lens to view life through, am

only learning to use the tools I already possessed.


My ego grows weak as my consciousness grows strong.

Today I choose to water my consciousness rather than feed my ego.

When I hate myself the whole world hates me too.

When I love myself I feel love looking back at me from you.



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Snowy Day and Socks

The other day I was given the opportunity to participate in the Creative Writing Group. It was an impromptu schedule change, thanks to the snow storm. I don’t usually attend the weekly group that meets at Rev, although the times I have I’m always overcome with joy. The group is so welcoming and inviting. This time was no different. It was a little awkward for me, I wasn’t sure who would be coming and didn’t know if I would know anyone. A bit after 10 a woman who looked quite familiar came in. I get pretty nervous initiative conversation, but I challenged myself to ask her if she was here for the writing group. She was and I said I was too. I told her that I was filling in for the day. As we chatted a bit others started to join us and we were able to hold the group. It was so refreshing to listen to the different writing styles of those around the circle. There was easy conversation and we laughed at the common experiences we had all shared. When it came time for the free writing section someone said sillily we should writing about un-matching socks. And so we did. I was so uncomfortable with participating. I don’t consider myself a writer and get very nervous sharing what I write. But I really challenged myself to channel that fear and fully participate. I’m so thankful that I did. I had a fabulous morning with this group, and would love to return soon to be in their company. If you haven’t participated, I highly encourage you to come by. Enjoy the company of some very warm and inviting people, laugh and make connections, maybe even do some writing.



My socks don’t match

The liberation of it all comes over me, so often I feel boxed and contained. Do right, be good, follow the crowd. But today I of all days I chose to say no. It was a day like any other, the sun slowly rose and threw shades of rose and amber across my room. The chill of the morning air had me snuggle a bit longer in my cocoon of covers. As I rise to face the day, I feel something churn inside of me. The constant struggle of what I want and what I must be is ever present. The what ifs start to take hold. What if I didn’t, how bad would it be I went my own way. What would people say. Would it be the scandal of the century? Today I feel the power, with the warmth of sun over my shoulders I use it to make my stand. As I dress the glee takes hold. How it is something so powerful has chosen me to be the messenger. I take the message given me and head for the door. I will face the world with my liberation, because today is the day that my socks don’t match.

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I knew today was a blog day. When I started this journey I created a soft schedule to keep me on track. I didn’t want this to become another half finished project of mine. I also didn’t want it to become a chore. So I resolved to write when I felt inspired and post by schedule. And this morning it happened, a day to post and no writing finished. I swore I wouldn’t stress about it. I wouldn’t force writing, because I value those of you reading this. So I waited, and prayed that inspiration would come. Come on inspiration…hope, prayer, spirituality, growth. Strike me now please. Nope. Nothing struck my writing fancy. The chaos of Friday mornings began. Snow storms, broken heat, the usual manic pace of Fridays especially when mother nature has dumped 2 feet or more of snow in one week. As I worked to put out fires, support staff, and accomplish the tasks of my day I was struck by a common word I was using. Compassion. Although not revolutionary, today it seemed different. I was asking for compassion from others for my perceived shortcomings. And discussing with others how to give compassion. You wonder why I’d be discussing how to give compassion. Isn’t it something that most people know how to give. Yes, at times. Compassion is pretty easy when someone is asking for compassion. And when it’s someone you care about compassion can be simple to come by. Compassion is harder when the person is being cruel, or you’re feel overwhelmed by them. Compassion can be one of those things we must first have in our possession before we can hand it out. It can also feel dictated by the mood we are in. I’m much more compassionate when I’m in a good mood, when I’m feeling patient, and when things are smooth. It’s a bit harder for me to have compassion when I’m defensive, burnt out, and fatigued. I see this play out a lot in the check out line. If I’m not in a rush, I’m more understanding and compassionate when the cashier is slow, or when the person in front of me has lots of coupons, or needs price checks. On the other hand, I’m less so after a challenging day or when I’m depressed. The discussion today was around having compassion when someone was being disrespectful and aggressive. Finding compassion when you’re feeling defensive and attacked. Challenging one another to view the behaviors of others as expressions of emotions, and therefore to have compassion for the feelings of others. Especially when someone’s behavior is meant to push you away. Often individuals experience intense emotions and show us that they are hurting, not by crying but by yelling, screaming, and building walls around themselves. It is those times that we are challenged to use our compassion. To hold the space and support the person with their deep emotions. Having compassion during these times can help individuals have compassion with themselves. Although it won’t make the hurt go away, it shows that they aren’t alone in their hurt. Compassion is the act of loving and forgiving, and it is not just for the times when it’s easy. Use your compassion to see into emotions that people are experiencing. And build connections based on it. When you lead with compassion in relationships you foster relationships that are healing and supportive. Leading with compassion also allows you the opportunity to share someone else’s experience, and them yours. Your use of compassion, not just when it’s easy, but when you feel that you have none to give, will pay you in dividends with the relationships you will foster.


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What would you be doing and saying?

I was recently combing through old scraps of things I wanted to remember and came across a question to help lead a family discussion. The question is, “If we wanted to be the best family we could, what kinds of things would we be doing and saying?” What a great targeted question to ask of people. And how great that you could exchange the word family for lots of other terms, like company, friends, team, person. I really like that it asked us to reflect on the actions we would engage in while being the best, it doesn’t leave it open and general. What would we be doing and saying. I wonder if we asked, “If we wanted to be the best community we could, what kinds of things would we be doing or saying?”, to everyone how varied our responses would be. What would make us the best community we could be? Would it be a place where everyone was equally included and valued. Could it include building relationships where everyone is free to express who they are and be respected for their differences. Does it mean that everyone has their basic needs met and has opportunities to participate? Some individuals would describe the best community in terms on concrete resources, supports, and opportunities. While others would use the relationships between members as a way to measure. I like to think about it less on what would make us the best community, and more in terms of the second part. What are each one of us doing and saying when we are living in the best community. How are we treating one another. Are we holding doors and exchanging greetings with strangers? For me, that is one of the things I’m doing. I am also asking questions and learning. If I’m living in the best community we can be, I’m learning about myself and those around me in a constant and purposeful way. I’m also finding ways to be of service. What are things that you are doing and saying? Are there times when you find yourself holding back these behaviors? I would like to challenge each one of my readers, think about this question and what you would do and say if we were living in the best community we could be. What are you doing and saying and how can we each start embodying that in our daily lives? I encourage you to comment and share what you are saying and doing. Let’s work together and see what shifts can happen.


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Grueling despair and the development of HOPE

I’ve been trying to spend more time learning, specifically by listening to small podcasts. Some people read books for personal development and growth, I read for pleasure. I don’t want to read and think. I want to be transported when I read. Short podcasts have become my sweet spot for learning, reflection, and growth. I’ve started to carve out about 10 minutes during my morning routine to devote to listening to a podcast. I use to spend that time stressing about things out of my control, making up problems that did not exist yet, or other tasks of a wandering mind. Now I use that same amount of time to channel and focus my thoughts. This morning I was listening to a new podcast, about spirituality and devotion. The content at first seemed a little flat, but during the discussion I found the author really tapping into something I connected to. She talked about how the tough times, those times when we are feeling forsaken and hopeless. The truly dark and powerless places many of us experience. That it is through those times and experience that hope is born. At first I struggled to agree with this concept, until I spent time really thinking about my own life and the lives of those I care about. It is the resilience and rebound that we’ve all experienced that gives us hope that we can overcome and triumph the next time we experience the darkness. And it is through each one of us sharing our story of adversity and transformation that we inspire hope in someone else. Each one of you who experienced and continues to experience challenging, seemingly impossible obstacles, and who shares the powerful story of triumph builds hope for others and for yourself. Each of you has the power to build and spark hope in others. What power that is to possess. What becomes a challenge for many of us, is deciding to use that power. Taking the courage to share the story of our journey, our transformation from living in the dark to taking hold of the light. And to allow ourselves to continue to share our story, even if we are experiencing struggles. Holding to the belief that our life is a series of strengths, gratitude, challenges, despair, and melancholy. That each phase of our life is valuable and important, not just the pretty parts. We must each remember that it is through the darkness that we have found the light and hope within ourselves. We find build and develop hope each time we tackle and overcome.




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Mid Major Comfort and Confidence

Do you ever wonder if the Olympic Athletes worry about being good enough? Do you think they are hearing voices of self-doubt and negativity? As I’ve watched these people tackle what seems like un-human feats I find myself wondering if they are born being comfortable with the stress that comes from excelling at something, or if they ever felt like a mid major athlete who was getting lucky. I’ve joked that I enjoy being a mid-major player in my professional life. You know, major enough to get invited to the “right” meetings, but not major enough that people will see my flaws. There is comfort in not being in the spotlight. In the light, others can pick apart what you say or do. I’ve always worried that if examined closely, someone would notice that I’m not perfect. Now, just to be clear I know fully well I’m not perfect. I don’t even think I’m close. I’m just a plain jane woman trying to do the best I can each day. And although I don’t expect myself to be perfect, I feel that others expect that from me. Sounds silly, but I know that others have the same experience. We have the ability to examine our minor flaws in way that makes them seem enormous. I’m working on changing that, and I’m challenging you to also do the same. Can we find a way to turn off the negative self-talk and doubt so many of us hear? Can we learn to be comfortable in the spotlight? Can we embrace our differences and not see them as negative aspects. I don’t believe those Olympic Athletes stand at the starting gate and doubt themselves. I think they excel because they believe they can, and because they have trained themselves to believe they can. I think we can also train like the athletes, to believe in ourselves. Let’s work together to train on being more comfortable, train ourselves to enjoy the spotlight and to celebrate our strength.



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Why I’m Blogging?

Over the last three years I’ve been fortunately to lead an amazing group of Recovery Specialists. This team inspires me every day to think different, believe different, and do different. Like all great teams, we have our shares of ups and downs, challenges and triumphs, and hail marys. I require that each person on my team step outside of their comfort zone, because that’s where the magic happens. So as I set my intentions for 2018 I asked how would I step outside my comfort zone. It was in that question that I realized, I haven’t really step outside it in a while. I’ve gotten caught up in the daily living, and haven’t reached up to grow and change. So behold, my first blog entry. My hope for this blog, is that readers learn a bit more about my team, our work, and themselves. My vision is that through this process all of you reading this will feel inspired to step outside your comfort zone too. Some of these entries will be about changes happening around my work life, some will be uplifting and inspiring stories, some might be sad. I believe in presenting my authentic self, whoever she is that day, and I hope through this journey each of one you will feel more empowered to be your authentic self. So my “why” for starting this blog is to educate, inspire, and empower each each.



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What’s Happening Around the Center

jan monthly overview

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