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Offering Hope Through Peer Support

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

We can get through COVID-19 Together

| By Joanna Dyer, PSS

I started drugs at a young age — marijuana at twelve, speed at fourteen, drinking at fifteen — and it became an endless cycle of trying new and harder drugs and partying.

Person exhaling smoke showing how the anxiety and depression related to the pandemic can lead to an increase in unhealthy behaviors if you don't seek support.

I left home at fifteen and got married at sixteen, no one was surprised. The man I married was abusive and controlling. The only real skill I had learned from my parents was “if it gets bad, then get the hell out,” so that is what I did. I left him when I was nineteen and ended up pregnant and alone at twenty.

Starting Over

Knowing that the life I was living wasn’t what I wanted for my son was finally what woke me up. It made me reevaluate my actions. I understood that I had to change. I had to go to different places, do different things, and change who I associated myself with. And it was hard. It hurt. But I did it.

I surrounded myself with people and places that were positive, which built me up and encouraged me. I ended up with good, solid relationships. I learned how to receive constructive criticism and not get offended. I had to learn how to do life and be responsible. It was a long process.

But that was ten years ago. I have become an entirely different person.

A board that reads "difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations" and a plant showing how our mental health support services can help people in Kentucky grow through the coronavirus pandemic.

At the beginning of starting my new life, there were things that had to change. It took time to build trust and earn forgiveness from my son. That took a lot of talks and a lot of action behind my words. But we did it. Today we have the best relationship we have ever had and I’m so proud of the man he’s become.

Eventually, I started a new chapter by marrying a wonderful man. He is also a recovering addict and we lean on each other daily to stay sober. He is the glue in our family.

It had always been a dream of mine to go to school and be a therapist. Once I got my head on straight, I tried going to college but both working full time and going school full time just didn't work for me. But the silver lining is that I did end up finding a job I love, working in the mental health field at Mindsight.

Peer Support Offers Hope

I’m a Peer Support Specialist. My job is to walk through life with others who are struggling with the same things I struggled with earlier in my life. I get to teach others the skills I have learned in life and help them. I get the incredible and rewarding responsibility of offering hope to those who might feel hopeless — Look, I did it. You can do it, too! It’s gratifying to know that the experiences in my life that I’m not proud of can be helpful to someone else. I’m grateful to be able to take the bad and turn it into good for my clients.

Now we are all facing a brand new and terrifying problem in the world — COVID-19, or the coronavirus. People are scared, losing their jobs, and they have no clue as to what to do. I am here to help. None of us have ever been through something like this, none of us know how exactly to deal with it. But there is one thing that I do know: we can have hope.

Now more than ever, people need other people. This crisis feels extra difficult, in part, because we have been asked to social-distance and we feel isolated. But there are options like Peer Support or online counseling that you can take advantage of to help ease your isolation and the anxiety or depression it can bring. There are people like me, who will talk to you and remind you that we have all been through hard times in life and we have all survived this far. We have to keep moving forward no matter what hardships arise.

We will get through this together.

Reach out. We care.

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