It’s been a little over two months since I was triggered into this exciting symptomatic PTSD whirlwind. Wisely, I’ve been having Razzie sit in for me at MHRAC. Unwisely, I attended a meeting for post-CIT training review of our peer presentation of Perspectives and De-escalation.

Why was this unwise? Because I wasn’t ready to be in a meeting yet. It was constant anxiety, it was constant lack of empowerment, and all I wanted to do was grab hold of something real. I wasn’t ready to be in a meeting like this yet.

That “yet” part of things is such a nebulous creature. How will I know when I’m ready to be in a behavioral health meeting? How do I gauge “yet” without going to behavioral health meetings? And what happens if I continue to attend meetings before I reach this mythical “yet”?

Let me tell you what it’s at stake. For four years I’ve been bucking misconceptions that peers are incapable of professional stature and unreliable in a professional setting. Wait up, this needs qualification:

Peers are incapable of Muggle professional stature.

Peers are unreliable in a Muggle professional setting.

It’s oft believed that peers have mental illness and thus have intellectual deficiency. This makes us suspect in being able to participate in meetings like MHRAC, and there is an undercurrent of “anticipating for the first shoe to drop, immediately followed by the other shoe dropping.”

Well, the first shoe did drop for me. My peer colleague chose to scream at me and jab me and this triggered severe PTSD symptoms for me.

And now the second shoe has dropped. I couldn’t have known how unprepared I was for the post-CIT review meeting if I wouldn’t have attended, and because of this my personal credibility and reliability is questioned.

It’s funny. There’s a guy on MHRAC who champions peers and PTSD understanding, and for him the … solution … is to help APD realize that peers can be symptomatic with PTSD, and that peer behavior while symptomatic with PTSD can appear to be disrespectful, uncooperative, and antagonistic. The idea is for APD to accommodate the symptoms of peers in PTSD crisis. Hopefully, this will facilitate better outcomes of peer/APD encounters. It’s a good solution, in theory.

This same guy has also voiced that my actions and behaviors lately have been “despicable,” “angering,” and “saddening,” and never mind that these actions and behaviors have been directly attributable to the severe PTSD symptoms triggered at MHRAC. Without PTSD symptoms, no problem, it’s cool to have me around. With PTSD symptoms, big problem, he’s despicably, angeringly (how do you make this into an adverb?), and saddeningly (same thing) unprofessional. The solution? He emailed our MHRAC co-chairs to point out that my professionalism is worth questioning. I can’t help but feel that a better email to our co-chairs might have been, “I’m worried for Steve, this isn’t his usual, professional behavior.” That seems like the logical, stigma-busting solution.

Here’s the thing. Peers are undependable. What’s that, you say? Yes, we’re undependable. This is the nature of having chronic illnesses that produce unpredictable behavior. When we’re managing symptoms well and there’s no problem, you’d never know we have mental health issues. Symptomatic flare-ups and now we’re having problems, and now we’ve become a professional liability (with current thinking). This lack of symptoms/no symptoms dependability is a huge part of the peer experience. It sucks, but that’s the reality.

So here I’ve been, on the forefront of peer advocacy for the last half decade, working hard to prove that peers are worth being treated with the same professional courtesies as … everyone else … and now that I’m having troubles learning to manage newly discovered PTSD symptoms, now there are whispers (and not so whispery) that it’s a mistake including peers on committees like MHRAC, and shoe one, shoe two, and whose point is he proving?

Further, since it was a peer colleague at MHRAC who is responsible for triggering my severe PTSD symptoms, and that this happened at an MHRAC meeting, and that she was so horribly unprofessional in her treatment of me, and that she was unable to manage her anger in a professional setting… whose point is she proving? The thought is she left both shoes at home altogether.

I’m not sure what a real solution is to peer dependability, accountability, and responsibility. I suppose we’re figuring this out as we go because peer involvement on this scale is something new to New Mexico, and that just four years ago I was being accused of:

“You’re so articulate for a consumer.”

We’re figuring this out as we go, and here’s how I see it:

Everything is an opportunity for education and understanding, and;

Peers are responsible for their professional behavior, and;

Peer collaboration insists upon accommodating symptomatic behavior, and;

Collaborating with peers includes working as a community to ensure peer safety, and;

Every adversity has the potential for both hypocrisy and empathy, and;

And (trademarked, by the by), “Ignorance Is Temporary.”

It sucks that defining peer professionalism within constant, predictable expectations isn’t possible by the very nature of mental illness. Again, we’re figuring this out as we go, and personally I can only hope that I will learn to better manage PTSD symptoms and gain wisdom on my professional participation when symptomatic.

Do peers have to prove themselves? Yep, just like everyone else. Peers do end up in crisis time and again, though. It’s my guiding hope that symptomatic behavior of peers in crisis is accommodated, and that our professional colleagues don’t measure our worth using a yardstick notched off with the type hypocritical stigmatization we are effectively charged with eliminating.

And in the meantime, I’ll be updating Thoughtcrimes with my “Adventures In Yet.” Should be fun, it will, it will.