What is a peer support specialist? How is one considered a peer? Does the trauma need to be the same? Does the healing need to be the same? Does any of it truly need to be the same for it to be considered peer support? There’s a sense of understanding when one considers themselves a peer. There’s a sense of validation, compassion, and empathy. There’s an unspoken trust between people who are healing from trauma and those who identify as their peer. It’s lived experience that makes us peers.
Healing through the trauma I experienced was never met with peer support. Nobody identified with me or validated my feelings through my journey of self-awareness, self-healing, and self-expression. I didn’t have peer support. I started, struggled with, and finished the healing process by myself. It’s given me strength in my adult life. It’s powerful to identify the healing that’s come from my trauma; it’s empowering really. Because of that, I consider myself a peer. I consider myself a specialist.
Being a peer specialist doesn’t necessarily mean we are the same age, have the same ethnic background, or even the same sexual preference, political views, or religious practices. What it means to me is that I have experienced and healed from situations in my life that caused mental illnesses, which eventually turned into physical illnesses. When I say I am a peer specialist, it doesn’t mean I have a certificate either. What it means is that I have visited the darkest caverns of my soul and I shinned a light in them.
I had to work on motivating myself out of depression hundreds of times. I held myself as I cried myself to sleep. I caused physical harm to myself to release the sense of uncontrollable anger I felt. I resorted to over eating, cutting, suicide attempts, and prostitution just to feel something. Therefore, when I consider myself a peer support specialist, I am telling myself that I have identified and accepted my childhood trauma. I am reminding myself that I have healed and overcame what others are experiencing or have experienced. I am now pursuing my dreams, accomplishing goals, and becoming the best person I can.
Writing The Wench’s Cocktale: A Bay Area Memoir allowed me to express things I experienced. I was sexually traumatized at a very young age and it haunted me throughout my life. Of course, healing is a never-ending process, and I still have moments of negative thoughts, anxiety, depression, and the inability to accomplish things. I still struggle. But, that’s also what makes me a peer, right? A peer isn’t only someone who has healed their pain, it’s someone who is still healing.
As I heal, I am motivated to mentor our youth, I am passionate about women in the sex industry, and I am grateful to have the strength to uplift others who are struggling through their trauma. It’s what I love about being a peer specialist. It’s what I love about life. It’s what I love about myself.