Blog written by: Kris Lord
Note: This blog is Part 1 of a 6-Part Blog Series.
The Growing Veterans peer-support training in Washington was an exceptional opportunity for some Team RWB Executive Staff to expand on what we do organically across the country every day. Our leaders are essentially incredible peer supporters on the ground – offering a variety of support to their teammates at every event we hold – whether that support is physical, social, emotional or practical. And we get that support in return. Our recent work in suicide prevention and intervention, through safeTALK and ASIST training, feels like a very natural extension of this.
I was grateful to be invited to participate in the Growing Veterans peer-support training last November, and to be amongst fellow leaders in Team RWB, Team Rubicon, The Mission Continues, and clinicians from the VA.
I was struck by the similarity with some of our work – empathy and active listening, storytelling, and the weight of shame. It was three days of powerful sharing and solid tools we could all take away to our own organizations. I came away with an understanding that, at some point, we will all most likely be both peer and peer supporter; that it’s a fluid role, and part of the human condition to be both at different times in our lives. And we learned, when acting as a peer supporter, just how important it is for us to have our own circle of support we can consult with.
By far, the most powerful moment for me was when Chris Wolf of Growing Veterans shared this about shame: the only reason for shame in tribal society was for behavior so dangerous, it was necessary for one to be shamed out of the tribe, for the good of the tribe. It was then I truly understood just how painful and damaging shame is, especially the shame we place on our own shoulders. When it was my turn to talk, I told Chris that statement felt like a knife through my heart – my heart broke, just thinking about the weight of shame so many people carry, and the physical or emotional isolation it brings. Though it was difficult, I was able to share with this group of people I care about and trust, my own struggles with shame and anger. I knew it was safe, and even though I felt anxious afterwards, wondering how it might have been received, I also knew deep down that my group had my back.
At every event with Team RWB, and with my tribe in my SF chapter, I come away with the feeling that my group has my back. Never before have I felt so safe to be myself – my authentic self – and I don’t think I truly understood what that felt like before. It means I get to be me without walls, and make those authentic connections with people. Some people we click with more than others, and that’s normal and OK. Because what a gift it is to at least know that I’m doing my best, and allowing myself to be seen for who I really am. And I continue to be touched by the courage of others who do the same – it is an honor to be witness to who you are!