I’ll start this entry off with a statement that I am stupid first thing in the morning; my mind just hasn’t engaged yet. So my morning started with me yelling at, and later cussing out, Alexa. I use my little Echo Dot as an alarm clock, which is why she received my wrath. I was grumpy, tired, and didn’t want to get out of bed, but she wouldn’t stop going off, no matter how many times I told her to “snooze” and “shut the hell up”. My wife, who was getting up and moving, ended up reminding me that “Bagel”, that’s what we call each other, long story, “Bagel, you have multiple alarms set, she IS snoozing, but you just keep falling asleep”. Yup, that’s pretty much how my mornings go.
After helping get the girls ready and getting myself ready, I was out the door…late. As I was ready to leave, my wife holds out her travel mug and said, “I made you coffee, take this with you”. That might sound insignificant, but to me it was far from it. One, my wife loves her some coffee. If she is handing some to me, she never intended on it being for herself, no matter how tired and useless I am in the morning. She really did make it for me. I pulled out of the driveway with a smile on my face, remembering, two, how much she loves me. I’m so lucky for that.
Even though I left late, I made it to work on time. The morning stop-and-go traffic that I have grown to expect was nothing more that a slight congestion. Once I finally got around to starting my day and working with my veteran peers, I was awake, smiling, and actually ready.
A large portion of what I do is in a group setting. I prepare topics and facilitate classes based on my own recovery experience and help fellow veterans find their own recovery conclusions. Emotional days or easy days, I love my job. My first group of the day was small. Sometimes these small groups can have an uncomfortable amount of awkward silence. Today, those veterans all actively participated in the entire session. They didn’t throw in a word here or there, or give a head nod and sit silent. They talked. I later told my boss that, although I didn’t show it to them, I was “smiling on the inside like a fangirl at a concert”. Yup, that’s my analogy…accept it. I really was excited, though. Mental health recovery isn’t easy. It isn’t comfortable. It is emotional. It is messy. Even with that, these folks were doing it today. As Peer Support, it is like watching somebody that you’ve been mentoring for a while finally “get it”, finally “take a risk”.
It didn’t stop there, although I would have been just fine if it did. My other group for the day followed suit. Even though it was a much larger group, all but two veterans were very active and all said in some way, shape, or form that they “got something” out of it. That’s the key. If you can make a single connection with somebody, provide a piece of shared insight, you can help. What a simple, but POWERFUL, concept. One topic was “what are small hopes?” The best way I can explain that concept is by finding one thing in your world that makes you smile and looking for it to happen again. Knowing that you had a hand in that moment can increase this feeling 10 fold. My recent moment that I shared was from a short, 9-second video that I had recently taken of my youngest daughter as she was watching cartoons. It went: “Hey Alice, guess what.” “What?” “I love you!” “Hey daddy, guess what.” “What?” “I love you!” That was my small hope because I knew in that moment and now that I was doing something right. If hope were the light at the end of the tunnel, walking toward those small hopes will only increase the amount of light that you’ll come across, that end of the tunnel.
My work day ended with some solo time spent working with a fellow vet that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. To keep his privacy, I’ll only say that I couldn’t think of a more fulfilling way to end the week. It was exactly what both of us needed. It’s kinda funny how life does that sometimes.
After thanking my boss once again for giving me a chance at this wonderful opportunity, I left. Now I am sitting in my van, waiting to pick up my “guess what” toddler, and looking forward to whatever the night may bring.
Take care of you.