My story matters because I matter – Brene Brown

After struggling to come up with a good way of introducing interested community partners to the participants at Robin’s Hope while preserving the participant’s privacy, we have arrived at this idea for a monthly blog/newsletter/social media post.  Participants will be invited to share their answers to a set of questions.  They will pair their story with an image that represents them.  This way everyone can share in what we are doing at Robin’s Hope and have a chance to celebrate the amazing folks that hang out with us each week.

My name is Heather Pate and I am a Registered Peer Recovery Specialist, Co-Founder and Board President of Robin’s Hope.  My passion draws from both my past and current lived experience.  This is what I bring to the table.  Sometimes it is messy, but it is always real and authentic.  I have Dissociative Identity Disorder with Complex PTSD and Anxiety.  I also live with Complex Chronic Pain and Narcolepsy.  Years and years of medications and therapy meant nothing without real connection.  Real connection meant I had to get vulnerable which offers healing and builds resilience.  I had to get really vulnerable in helping to start Robin’s Hope.  It has forced me to dream when I thought dreaming was pointless.  It pulls me outside of myself to connect with others which reminds me I am not alone.  It teaches me every second of every day about resilience as this stretches in all kinds of ways all the time.

Years ago in the midst of a marriage going sour I met a ‘Peer Specialist’ at a local peer run program.  She introduced me to the Personal Bill of Rights that I never knew existed.  I did not believe any of it applied to me.  She listened and she lifted me up at a time where I could not believe it was possible.  She did not force me to believe these rights were valid to me.  She reminded me of those rights through her actions.  I remember looking at her and saying there was something about her that I wanted, but I did not know what that was.  She passed away and I know she is watching from above and that warms my heart.  Years of trauma from childhood to adulthood left me divorced, alone, with chronic pain, and questioning my reality at every turn.  After being nearly bed bound, I knew if I was going to come out of this and be able to do more, then I wanted to help others.  I wanted all that I have been through to not be in vain, but I also needed something for myself.  I am grateful for the few who faithfully stood by me and breathed life into me before I could see it as possible.  Someone encouraged me to take the Peer Specialist Training and others who just walked alongside over the years.

How did you first hear about Robin’s Hope?  What does Robin’s Hope mean to you now?

I have around 10 different inpatient hospitalizations over the years.  Most of my hospitalizations placed me in a specialized trauma unit where I felt very safe.  I feel very thankful for those hospitalizations and I learned a whole lot. There were many times I felt safer there than in my own community.  It led me to fighting with myself about why I wanted to be in the hospital rather than living my life.  What was wrong with me?  Most people in my life in these years did not really get me or the internal struggles I was facing.  I did not want to be alone in all of that.  When Jennifer and I started talking about creating some groups I drew on some of the groups I had in those hospitalizations.  I needed a community that understood that alone feeling.  Those struggling with full time jobs putting on a mask day to day just to get by and then coming home at night to feel so alone.  Those struggling on disability stuck at home with nothing else to do and the past haunting them with each breath.  Those in between those struggles that just need some connection or just needing people outside of their day to day stressors to just be without judgement and to be real about the struggle of life.  I don’t know much, but I know I am not the only one struggling in these ways.  When we first learned about the Community Resilience Initiative Card Deck I knew that resilience, connection, and hope were the keys.  Art, Brene Brown, Walking, Psych-Educational, and Yoga groups just seemed to be the right fit.  I needed more and I am so thankful to know that I am not alone in that need.

Now, I am extremely busy and balance is a huge challenge.  I am learning in a very tangible and real way about resilience.  Connection and hope is everything I hoped for at Robin’s Hope.  We are challenging one another in and outside of groups, friendships being made, hope beginning to grow where it seemed far too dark to happen.  As a peer specialist, I walk alongside others, but at Robin’s Hope it isn’t just me walking alongside others.  We are walking alongside one another which means I do not have to be the one that has it all figured out.  This dream I thought was not possible is happening.  I have no clue what will happen or what the future truly holds, but what I do know is that my whole life prepared me for right now and I want to treasure these days. 

What is one memory of Robin’s Hope that stands out or one accomplishment you have made that stands out for you?

Countless times I have had someone come up to me in tears thanking Jennifer and I for creating such a special safe space and that there is nothing like this.  Well, I knew there was nothing really like this because that is why I needed it.  I see those tears and I feel them deeply because they are the tears I have for this place and for what I needed.  Those moments are priceless and carry me through every single day.  Those memories will never be topped.  A close second was just this past week.  We had someone come to one of our groups as a speaker who helped design the card deck we use in our RISE group.  When we told everyone this was happening they acted as though she was someone famous.  I sat in the room with this speaker this week along with everyone else and you could feel how important this place is to others.  I mean it is really important to me, no doubt, but when I can feel it in the room by others, WOW.  Then to have her pull me aside and share how meaningful the time was for her and how big of a difference she can see this place is having on those in the room and all that is happening here.  Her saying that she knows this is what Jennifer and I were meant to create and how much passion is there.  She felt the room also.  I said before I tend to question my reality, but when someone I look up to outside of Robin’s Hope reflects back at me what they see and feel from just one hour in the room, then it reinforces what I feel that much more.

I am so grateful for all who are brave enough to show up week after week.  Even more, to see friendships forming, people sitting with others while they cry, rooting each other on, venting about life, individuals starting to believe in themselves and offer hope to others, or watching a single flame of hope spark.  These are all special moments and memories.  This is why I do what I do.

What is your favorite group (or most impactful)?  Why?

Just one?  I can’t do just one.  I like the Brene Brown Book Group because it is so informal, but so powerful. 

The walking groups I love as well because we are just getting to know one another and just be.  Conversations can be goofy or sometimes really deep.  A few months ago several of us walked to a nearby park and played like kids.  That stuff is just so meaningful.  One of my newest favorite groups is the Maker’s Group.  Every month we work on something different.  February we created a bunch of essential oil rollers.  We designed the scent, chose a carrier oil, gave it a name, and chose some colors for the label.  Each is unique to the person who created it.  Each week we made more and more to build an inventory.  Now we have them for sale as the proceeds come back to Robin’s Hope to help keep us going.  We chat during that time and hang out while making them. 

What makes Robin’s Hope unique?

I look at the world today and see so many people responding out of their own unresolved trauma.  Trauma and pain is all over our world.  This program centers around Hope, Resilience, and Connection.  These are three concepts we need so much of today.  We do not bill insurance and it does not cost anything to attend.  All you have to do is show up and see what happens.  It isn’t something special in just one visit.  It is coming time after time getting to know others and others getting to know you until suddenly you realize you have a whole team of support walking with you and rooting you on that you did not have before.  It also values everyone’s strengths.  Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what that looks like and how.  Also valuing both lived and learned experience into the room.  We all having something to learn from one another.

What motivates you to come back to Robin’s Hope every week?

The people, the safety we work hard to ensure, the authenticity in the room, and all the feels (tears, anger, and laughter).  It is hard for me to have so much nerve pain and get going in the mornings, but the people are what get me there each and every time.  I learn so much from each individual and they inspire me to keep pressing on.

What does the saying “Take your drama to the trauma llama” mean to you?

We are a safe place to unpack the drama, hurts, vulnerabilities, etc to feel the feelings that come with it and evolve in the process. It also means I am bombarded by llamas almost daily in some way.  To be honest, I love it.  When people see llamas and know about Robin’s Hope they usually think of Robin’s Hope and then share it to me or Jennifer.  It also just becomes a tangible way I can see that others thought about me even if it is related to Robin’s Hope.  Call it strange, but with the world so fast paced and lacking connection someone took the time to post about a llama that is fun and silly means they thought of me.  It also means we can deal with some tough stuff, but we have fun also.  Not many groups go by where we aren’t laughing about something.