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Let’s Continue to March Ahead

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Another month is over, and another one is about to start. Now that summer is about half complete, we must march ahead. Yes, I know it’s summer, not March. 

August has been hot and uncomfortable for many people, especially those with mental health issues. We, as peer specialists, must do all we can to help others that are struggling for any reason whatsoever. Wait a minute (or two). 

Is that not what all of us as peer specialists aim to achieve during all 12 months of the year, not just every March? So, do we march ahead? Yes, but not only in March.

We march ahead slowly and steadily. Most important, we are moving in the correct direction ahead. Increased needs and different opportunities are being created to become peer specialists. An added plus is that more and more individuals are marching and being employed as peer specialists, making this their career. 

I was an assistant case manager when I resumed marching in my mental wellness journey. It was on 11th October 1994 that I felt that this was the only way for me to reenter the workforce. Working 10 hours weekly for 40 hours monthly gave me a reason to get up and march both Tuesdays and Fridays and prepare my other days accordingly.

At that stage of my life, it was 10 hours of being productive, helping others and imagining that I even received a small paycheck. For now, the focus was not on me. It was on the people I worked with. Yes, it was their turn to march forward for needs, wants, and responsibilities being pushed to the forefront.

Overall, it made my days more vital, and I was getting stronger emotionally and marching ahead. Several months later, I was allowed to march ahead.

Now to the next level. Assistant case manager II at 15 hours weekly and a higher per hour rate. Then, I received a series of short-term ongoing assignments to aid people with their life goals. Also, I worked one night from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm at a Mental Health Evening Program
running groups and one-on-one with different members. Then I marched for 17 or 18 hours weekly. One group I facilitated was named Panic and Anxiety Group. Hey, does this sound like a peer specialist does today?

However, we were still in the mid-90s and referred to as assistant case managers. Marching ahead, in February of 1998, I was offered and accepted a full-time position for the mental health agency as an assistant case manager III. During my beginning time, I handled various tasks, including holding down a caseload of my own.

Suddenly in 2002, I marched ahead by helping in the successful merging of the assistant case management program and the peer specialist program called Consumer Link that had already existed.

Wow! Marching ahead years, in October 2019, I was a working professional as an assistant case manager/certified peer specialist for over 25 years. Nice accomplishment, but I still would like to march ahead even more.

Earlier that year, on 19th June, my mom died at 87. No, I did not get depressed. Of course, I was sad, but I marched ahead. Over the past 18 months, when her dementia was getting worse, and she did not always recognise me, she died (in my mind).

So when she died, it was easier to handle, and I could march ahead and continue. Bye, mom, I still miss you.

Unfortunately, for the last few years, I have had nerve damage inside my left eye, creating visual issues In turn, that causes severe headaches, so it becomes difficult for me to drive around for extended distances and/or any length of time.

In addition, I have neuropathy and nerve damage on the left side of my body. As best as I can, I march ahead. No poorer me or any type of self-pity to keep me down. I am just frustrated and angry that I cannot march ahead and return to work. 

Also, on 12 June, it was the seventh anniversary of the death of my significant other, Maureen. During the last several months of her life, she had a brain aneurysm and suffered. Eventually, it burst inside; she went into a coma and died shortly thereafter.

Over time, I did march ahead. Yes, mom and sweetie, I still miss you both; I still love you both and wish both of you were here. For today, I march ahead, even though I know it’s summer. It is difficult sometimes, but I do march ahead because I am not ready for the alternative. Enjoy the rest of the days of our lives

Howard Diamond is a certified peer specialist from Long Island.


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