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.

 Hi! I’m Chastain. I’m a 40 year old, disabled human who donates her time to life and relationship coaching in the Richmond, VA area. I am neurodiverse, non-binary, queer, and I suffer from depression and anxiety, PTSD, and chronic pain. 

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

The pandemic has harmed us all and caused losses in so many ways. For me, it made it impossible to tell that I was experiencing side effects from a medication, rather than losing my mind and slipping into a permanent PTSD flashback. I live with a very painful disease and my doctor was trying to help me with side effects from a wholly separate medication. Sadly, the result was that I attempted to take my life at the end of April.

My family didn’t know how to help me. I did know. I did have tools and resources and training and a solid mindfulness practice that should have helped. But the medication, pandemic- everything had ripped my toolkit from my arms. I’m a life and relationship coach. I am also disabled, so I primarily volunteer my time. Robin’s Hope had posted their services in the asks & offers section of Facebook’s covid resources. I had previously shared their information with one of the self-care, peer support groups I run on Facebook. A month after I tried to walk out of life’s doors, I walked into the virtual doors of Robin’s Hope.

Robin’s Hope has become a staple of my day. Its mission, its people, and its heart have wrapped me in a blanket of compassion. Not only has my recovery, emotional health, and self-compassion bloomed under their care, I have found renewed purpose in my life and this world. I didn’t know peer support existed as an official “thing”. It is the most beautiful, poignant, tender, and loving environment in which I have ever tried to heal. I am inspired to work to offer this same sort of space to others. Robin’s Hope means life to me. Robin’s Hope gave me the ability to get my life, dignity, drive, and peace back. I do the work. But this community of people walking alongside me, also doing the work, makes the work so much more meaningful. I am forever thankful for finding this space and honoured to experience this level of healing.

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

The things that stand out to me as my favourite memories are the small, inside jokes that no one else will get. What happens when you gather a bunch of people who have experienced life in a deeper, possibly painful way… and laughter breaks out? You get hope. And that’s a marvelous thing to witness and be a part of. I can’t really capture that wholly and articulate it here. From deviled eggs to finger wiggle dancing to all of the discussions about food. Truly, there is so much joy in this recovery process. Joy, laughter, fun.

An accomplishment that stands out for me is being able to give back to Robin’s Hope. I facilitate a check-in group, and that is very meaningful to me. This organization has given so much to me and my spirit that it is a blessing for me to be able to give back with my skill set.

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

Confession time: I go to all of the groups as I am able and I love all of the groups for different reasons. My top three are:

  • Peer Check-Ins: I love having a chance to discuss my daily successes and struggles and hear that I am not alone as others share their stories. We have engaging conversations, give and receive feedback from our peers, and laugh and cry together. When I am truly struggling, I know I can make it to the next check in, even if I have to make it through the weekend. There is always a check-in on a weekday
  • Life Skills: Jennifer leads an educational 90 minutes where we practice communication and emotional regulation skills that promote healthy living. Not only do we have fun roleplaying the good, the bad, and the ugly, but we walk away with stronger senses of who we are and what we can accomplish in this world. As someone who taught communication skills and coaches people to help them make healthy life choices for themselves, it is such a boon to my own self care to have a place to practice my own skills. I look forward to this group every week
  • Boundaries: Angie facilitates a great conversation-based group where we discuss different types of boundaries and contemplate how they are enacted in our lives. We have excellent conversations that dig deep into the meaning of boundaries, what it is to have our boundaries violated, and how we can enforce our boundaries in healthy ways. It may seem like a heavy topic, but there is light and laughter in this group. Angie has a way of leading us through a maze of discovery that is challenging and fun!

What makes Robin’s Hope unique?

Imagine a place where everyone is doing the work. Everyone is uplifting everyone else. One person’s bad day is another person’s good day, so there is energy to be shared. Now add caring professionals who donate their time, talents, heart, efforts, healing, and their own personal journeys to this mix. Include laughter and effort and joy. Drop in some tears and boundaries and the truest compassion you have experienced on this planet.

There you have Robin’s Hope. 

Robin’s Hope is a place that I came to as a hopeless stranger and I found peers and fellowship. I found healing, hope, and heart. The idea that my healing is fostered by people who are also healing is true recovery. And this is different from the recovery programs I have participated in before because the focus is so wholeheartedly on resiliency. Robin’s Hope wants me to get better and grow and learn. I feel that in my soul, but when I don’t get better and I’m growing slowly in some areas, Robin’s Hope is patient and kind with me.

I have never felt that with therapy nor other programs.

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

This organisation, its meetings, and people have become a part of my life and daily schedule. My weekdays are built around my Robin’s Hope schedule. It provides stability, kinship, and a sense of constancy in this pandemic, and in my recovery. One day I will attend fewer meetings and have less time (or need less time) to devote to my recovery. And that is okay. 

Right now, I come back because I need to and want to. 

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

How will I feel in five minutes? How will I feel a week from now? Is this an emergency? Am I reacting or responding? Am I being mindful? I feel like this statement is the tongue-in-cheek reminder that not everything is the end of the world. But that there is a place for all feelings. That all feelings are valid, even if they are not based in reality. Let’s be mindful. Let’s exist in this present moment. Let’s be observant and ask ourselves if this is truly worth the reaction we are experiencing.

And let’s remember to laugh, darn it!