My husband, John, died suddenly in 2007. My four grown up children did not cope well with his death. Two of them, in particular, were very angry about the decision that I made to not put him on dialysis for the last months of his life. He had cancer and I chose to let nature take its course. My husband was sick for 16 years and we were married for 30 years: we’d discussed all the options and I knew he did not want to live that way. I didn’t discuss my decision with our kids: I didn’t want to put them in the position of having to make a hard decision. It was enough that I was between a rock and a hard place, wasn’t it?
When he died, my world came crashing down around me. Two years and a lot of grieving later, I thought I would make a tree change and move down south (without my kids). I had worked for 30 years in community welfare and was in managerial roles for 13 years before I became Regional Manager of an Out of Home Care program for a large not for profit organisation – it was a job I though I could do and for which I was competitively selected.
There was an expectation from the organisation that I could take on 6-7 roles without support. Management put a lot of demands on me. It became bullying when they discovered that I could not and would not work 7 days per week, 18 hours per day. When I fell apart, the attacks became terrible to the point where my managers were verbally abusing and degrading me. It took me 10 months to get out of that dark place and I still struggle with some anxiety and depression.
I find that consumers are more willing to talk to me - not about their diagnosis, medication or mental health issues, but about how they feel, their stories and how that has impacted their lives. The Intentional Peer Support training I went to in March 2013 has helped me as it has given me a base upon which to build. I really started to listen and see things differently. Being able to share my story with the team and other people has been useful as it opens up other ideas and ways of thinking that may have been overlooked or not considered as important. This allows me to open up a dialogue with the Key Workers and assist them to see the consumers with whom they work from a different perspective.
Being a Peer Worker since September 2012 has been interesting, informative and a learning experience. A key aspect has been about building up trust again. I still trust people but don’t trust management and the authority process. Graeme Sorrell has been a fantastic support for me.
I always thought that I could save the world and make it a better place. I know now that I can’t, but I can listen, have empathy and help develop relationships that model positive recovery.