I’ve Been There, You Can Do This – Peer Support Specialists at THS
Meet Marissa, Peer Support Specialist
Sitting down with Marissa is like sitting down with a friend you’ve known forever but haven’t seen in a while. She’s both energetic and relaxed, which is perfect because Marissa is a Peer Support Specialist at Therapeutic Health Services (THS). As a Peer Support Specialist, Marissa helps people in need connect to mental health treatment. Marissa is the person at the door welcoming new patients. She’s the voice on the phone reaching out to people who are taking their first tentative steps towards treatment. Marissa loves being the person who helps empower patients on the path to recovery. “My job is not to solve people’s problems. My job is to support people in finding the answers to their own problems” Marissa said. There’s a reason Marissa is a peer; she’s been where many of THS’ patients once were. Marissa struggled with mental health and addiction for a long time.
A Hard Road
Marissa was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder* when she was 13. She spent half her life taking medication she didn’t need. As she puts it, this changed her outlook on life for the worse. Marissa started using methamphetamines when she was 15. She began to use alcohol and other drugs to help her cope with the mental health symptoms she’d been experiencing. It was a dark time in her life. “You know I’ve been there I’ve been hospitalized over 20 times…when you look at me you don’t see somebody who was addicted to drugs,” said Marissa.
Life became even more challenging when Marissa found out she was pregnant. It was when Marissa met with her OB/GYN that they found that she wasn’t bipolar. Her doctor changed her medication and she entered evidence-based treatment for both her mental condition and her addiction. With time, hard work and compassion, it wasn’t long before she was living life on her own terms. Marissa said, “I’ve been off my meds for 10 years now and it’s the strongest I’ve ever been.” Being someone who’s been there, Marissa speaks to what is important to remember when in treatment, “It’s just about being honest and vulnerable…It’s a difficult transition but we (THS) provide hope…to people who are ready to take it back.”
On Being a Peer Support Specialist
Marissa takes her years of experience struggling and recovering from mental illness and addiction and uses them every day in her role as a peer support specialist. “I love just being that light of hope…they feel connected because they’re like ‘Oh you know, you’ve been there, you’ve gone through what I’ve gone through’” said Marissa. She says that when she sits down with a patient and is honest about her recovery, she can establish an instant connection. “I just really like supporting people to where they can get to the next step in their recovery,” said Marissa.
Having gone through recovery herself, Marissa is a living example of the hope that everyone should feel about their own recovery. “There is hope and I think a lot of people lose that side of that hope because they think it’s always going to be like this. (They feel they will) always going to be a slave to their addiction” said Marissa.
Sometimes We Trip, Sometimes We Fall
Marissa is the first person to tell you that recovery is not an easy or linear process. “I relapsed almost six years ago while I worked here” said Marissa. “This organization just rallied around me because they get it. They understand that it’s part of the recovery process.” Marissa took time off work to recover and given time, treatment, and lots of support, she was soon back to work helping patients. “I’m very vocal about it especially with co-occurring* clients, because when people relapse it’s part of the addiction process and they don’t realize that” said Marissa.
New Home, New Room
Marissa’s position with THS is the longest job she’s ever had. It’s given her the opportunity to get off disability and become an independent earner, an accomplishment she is very proud of.
“I’m not on any type of assistance. I’m a single mother. It’s just me and my son and I take care of us independently and because of this job I am able to buy my own home. (My son) will have his own room for the first time since he was a baby.”Marissa Brooks, Peer Support Specialist
Marissa was able to create a beautiful life and future for herself and her son while spending her days providing the support and care needed to help dozens of others in recovery.
Don’t Have Doubt, We Can Help
Marissa wants everyone to get the care they need. “I think that if you are ambivalent at all, just come and talk to a staff member. We are so client-centered. It’s always about what is best, what will foster the client’s wellness and treatment…We work for you” said Marissa.
*Co-occurring Disorders or Dual Diagnosis is the condition of suffering from a mental illness and a substance abuse problem