Peer Support Means Journeying with One Another
I was in the car driving when my phone rang, it was one of the group members in my peer support group that I attend at The Gatehouse. I answered the call since I was alone, and the call went directly to Bluetooth. Before I could speak, I heard her voice and her feelings poured out like a river of pain. She was crying and I knew all too well what state of mind she must be in as I too have been there and will likely visit that dark and lonely place of torture again.
She was having an emotional flashback. As my fellow traveler on the journey of healing would describe it, “I am so filled with guilt and shame.” I started to shed silent tears and soon composed myself as I wanted and needed to be there for her. “Breathe,” I said. “You know what to do. A big belly breath in and slow and steady out.” (Breathing is so important to help your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system become balanced once again). She started to calm. “What are you seeing, smelling, hearing?” (This, we call grounding and helps someone in distress move away from their emotions so they can compose themselves and think logically. This reduces the impact and shortens the emotional flashback).
I allowed her a few moments while I danced around traffic but reminded her that I am here for her and that she is not alone. I told her that she is loved. “ She sobbed quietly over the phone and I heard her moan, “I was so little.” “Yes you were”, I said. Then I asked her if that little preschool girl could possibly be responsible for what she was subject to at that age?” She said, “no, no she’s not”. “So, does she deserve the guilt and shame?” Calm arrived and we both exchanged words of gratitude, encouragement, and compassion.
When a child experiences such a trauma, a person can relive all of the emotional and physical feelings. For years we exist, not knowing why overwhelming feelings can consume us. Understanding how the trauma impacts us can help us address each of the symptoms and as a community, we support one another to find the healing we have longed for.
The Gatehouse staff and volunteers are trained in a variety of therapeutic techniques which use to empower the program participants; we, in turn, become equipped to manage ourselves and support one another’s healing journey. Once we experience a taste of healing, we crave it more, and eventually, the confident, compassionate, whole-person that we were always meant to be is given life. Healing allows us to love ourselves, and others.