My name is Teresa Baker and I have lived with a serious mental illness for as long as I can remember. I know everyone’s experience with mental illness is different, but one thing we do share is that we fight invisible battles every day. That reality follows you through life. Through every mundane thing, through every hard thing, and through happy times and bad. At first you try to hide it, then you make excuses for it. Ultimately, you have to face the truth of your symptoms and find a way through it.
I have been with Aspire Indiana for about 15 years now. For the first 12 years or so, I worked in group homes. I was drawn to the work. Having a family history of mental illness and living with my own symptoms over the years gave me a unique perspective for the mentally ill. I’ve always been able to find common ground with our consumers and understand their situations a little better than others who did not have personal experience. It was about 3 years ago when I met a Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS). We worked the same shift and we were able to share our personal experiences with mental illness. It was so nice having someone to talk to that knew what it was like to try to live a “normal” life and to fight through symptoms every day. That’s when she told me about becoming a CRS. Not long after that, I enrolled in the class and became a Certified Peer Specialist.
I have always had shared experience with the clients, but my education taught me how to use my lived experience to better serve others. Gone was all that remained in me of the notion that I was the expert who was supposed to tell others how to live. For the first time, the difference between me and them, staff and client, just fell away. I came out of that class a different person. My eyes were opened to all of the wondrous possibilities that a Peer can offer to a fellow person who is suffering with symptoms and trying to go through some of the struggles I lived through. I have a new purpose. My new mission is to walk beside the people who come to us seeking help and safety and to let them know, I know. To brush the tears away and tell them they are not alone anymore. To walk beside them with empathy and support as they discover their own recovery path that will lead them to finding happiness and fulfillment. But most of all, to give them hope. I have come to know that even though my own struggle is ongoing, I can still be a beacon of hope to others who are feeling like they will never be able to reach their goals. I can still be living proof that coping skills and medications work, that bad days aren’t forever, and that their lives and dreams are worth fighting for! I walk beside my clients, I lift them up when they can’t do it themselves, and I inspire hope for the future when they are lost in the darkness. I share so much with the people I work with, and they see me as someone they can trust to be on their side and to understand their struggles. This work, and these people, have made me a better person. They help me as much as I help them. I have found my purpose in this work and I know it is what I am meant to do. I am proud to be a peer to these wonderful people, and I no longer hide my illness in the shadows.
My name is Teresa Baker, and I battle Major Depression with Anxiety and Panic Disorder.
Certified Recovery Specialist, Aspire Indiana