Why I stopped being a “peer snob” and learned to value peer support

A guest contribution from @lauramaywritten who blogs at lauramaywritten.blogspot.co.uk

Peer support is something I never really valued. I didn’t want to be around people with the same problems as me, and I didn’t understand what good it would do sharing my troubles. I was, to be honest, a bit of a ‘peer snob’.

All that changed when I went along to a local peer support group. The only reason I went was because a friend of mine ran the group. I wanted to support him, and I was keen to chat to people about my writing, of course!What I came across was completely unexpected. At the first meeting, I sat and listened to the people around me, and I realised they were saying my own words back to me. They were sharing, opening up, and it actually made me feel better. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only person in the world going through the highs and lows of a mental health condition. Suddenly, I could relate to other people and appreciate their experiences.

I was, to be honest, pretty shocked. As a veteran of the mental health system, I assumed I knew all the tricks of the trade…how to get an appointment faster, what kind of medication is best for my condition, whether I should have CBT or counselling. I thought, quite wrongly, that I knew how to cope all on my own.

What I have learnt over the years, since that very first meeting, is that peer support has value way beyond just my own mental health. It takes the burden off my friends and family a bit. It supports me to make informed decisions. It enables me to draw on my own lived experience of Borderline Personality Disorder and help other people going through the same thing.

It gives me, quite simply, a voice.

Now, I don’t know what I would do without the peer support I have in my life. I use peer support on a daily basis…whether it is chatting to a friend who has the same experiences as me or checking out recommendations on Twitter from people around the world. I am a peer support junkie now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

So, that’s why I spoke  at #Peerfest14 in Birmingham on Friday. Run by the national mental health charity Mind, it has become the annual celebration of peer support in England. I am honoured to be attending, and I will be doing a poetry reading in the afternoon,

Why? Because I have found my voice, thanks to peer support.

This piece was originally posted on Laura’s blog ahead of  #peerfest14, the English peer support conference run by @mindcharity . We asked Laura if we could re-publish it, because it sums up so perfectly what we hear from people so often.

What about you? Have you overcome concerns about peer support? Or maybe you’re considering getting involved in peer support but feel unsure? Has Laura convinced you?

One Response to Why I stopped being a “peer snob” and learned to value peer support

  1. Pru Davies November 24, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    I am sure that Laura May’s post will be of inspiration to others and hopefully open doors for those who recognise themselves in her words, so succinctly put, about what it means to be different, to be creative, to express yourself in ways that so often others cannot. I have checked out her site and everyone should take a look. I for one have found that peer support, good friends, safe places with like-minded people, are simply the best!
    I could name a few that have certainly helped me, Tea in the Pot in the Pearce Institute in Govan, The Factory Cafe near the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, both of these can be found on Facebook – there are many more out there to explore – go on, it will do you good

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