To Peer or Not to Peer

JUN. 06, 2013

In September 2012, I was sent to Baton Rouge, La. to attend the NAMI Peer-to-Peer training class. I attended this class as I am a person who does what I am told to do and I am a "team player." Since I had no previous experience with Peer-to-Peer, I used to think, what's the point of all this training anyway? How much could it really help?

I found myself in a class with about 15 peers. I soon found that the training was very informative but also intense. The instructors were very good in explaining various things to us. During a part of the class (I think the part of the class where we think of a safe area), it brought to memory something that had recently happened and it hit a nerve. I started quietly crying in the class. I heard the instructor through my hands tell the class to let me cry as long as I needed to. After my good cry, I was able to move on.

I could go on and on about all the things in the class, but the part that stuck out to me most from the Peer-to-Peer training was something called the Relapse Prevention Grid. The Grid is complex and involves different things about our feelings, thought, how we have taken care of some of our problems, and options of how to do the opposite of what we have done in order to arrive at better solutions. In the Grid I had filled out, I had mentioned things such as having to deal with Hurricane Isaac, losing my $200 disaster relief food stamp card and my wallet and not be able to replace either of them, and avoiding to look at myself in the mirror.

While attending the class, I had a great deal of rage and repulsion boiling around inside unable to come out. During the class, I felt I was the most repugnant, repulsive creature ever to have lived on planet Earth. I relayed this to my classmates and they were shocked to hear this and they told me I just couldn't see it at all. The last column in the Grid was about doing the opposite of what I had done in the past. The information in my last column was to start walking to get rid of my anger and to face myself in the mirror and take a good look.

Our class ended on Sunday afternoon. The next day, I faced my worst fears and took a good look in the mirror. I thought, hey, I'm not as bad looking as I thought. In fact, I thought, hey, I have a lot to work with if I only try. I then got out my hair care products and my various cosmetics and went to work. After I finished, later that day, someone didn't even recognize me at all (they thought I was a total stranger).

Also, I came up with the idea to start a fitness program. I knew I had to be very careful as I weighed about 278 pounds at the time. Too much exercise too soon and I could give myself a heart attack. Now let me tell you something, for about two years, various professionals had been advising me to do some sort of physical activity for my health. I used to hem and haw and come up with practically every excuse in the book as to why I couldn't (or wouldn't) exercise. Exercise seemed so BORING at the time. With my new fitness plan, I started off very slowly. September was one lap (1.8 miles) around Audubon Park in New Orleans one day a week; October was one lap two days a week; November was one lap three days a week; December was one lap four days a week. During December, I had a major setback. In my right knee a ligament or tendon "flared" up severely. I had to completely rest until my knee healed.

In January 2013, I was back at it. I’ve been slowly increasing how much I do each month. Since the last week of March, I have been doing two laps four times a week. I am weighed each week and measure myself with a tape measure about every two months. I have lost about 8 lbs. I feel I would have lost more weight, but that my metabolism is slower due to my age (54) and my medicine.

No matter what, I am determined more than ever to keep up my fitness program. In fact, I have an award system in conjunction with my fitness plan. I even have the beginning ankle weights as I plan to start weight training in July 2013. I even have a person who trains with me now. I also teach an exercise class one or two times a week at NAMI New Orleans as needed to my fellow peers. I feel so very strongly about physical fitness now. I am even planning on participating in 5Ks starting in June 2013. My first one is a bridge race with a walking division.

In the end all I am trying to say is thank you for NAMI Peer-to-Peer training and thank you for allowing me to be a peer to my peers.

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