How I turned my broken moments into a mosaic.
This blog post is authored by Pura Torres, a Peer Support Specialist for MHA-NYC’s NYC Well program.
“I LOVE MY JOB!” Every time I say this, or think it, I can’t help but smile and laugh a little. Being a peer support specialist for MHA-NYC’s NYC Well program has become the most important part of my life. It has turned every broken moment in my life into a stained glass mosaic.
I’m always excited, and my heart always hurts, when I get a call from a Spanish-speaking caller. My heart breaks with the knowledge of their struggles and fears, but I get excited because I know that their reaching out to NYC Well is the first step to finding understanding, empathy and support, and that they are on their journey to recovery.
I can still remember the whispering between my mother and family members when I was in the hospital, having my stomach pumped after taking an overdose of valium at the age of 11. My parents were not quite equipped to understand what was happening. I am a first-generation American, my parents hailing from Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. The topic of mental health challenges was as taboo as the talk about the birds and bees. It was so taboo, I lied and said I took the valium by accident, thinking it was aspirin.
It would be over 20 years before things began to change, during which I went to priests and santeras (Hispanic priestesses who thought I was cursed and/or being punished by the saints and God), and just tried to “do my part,” as my mother put it. My depression, along with marijuana use, losses of loved ones like my father, grandmother and child (due to a horrific abortion experience), morphed into a complete psychotic break. I blamed everyone else for the bad turns in my life and saw signs in every written thing my eyes laid on, from candy wrappers to advertisements on television. As time went on and I didn’t get the help I needed, I worsened to the point of hearing voices.
It wasn’t until my last suicide attempt in 1998, after the death of my two-month-old daughter to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, that I rested in the thought that God had a plan for my life. I sought out and stuck with therapy and medication. My therapist and psychiatrist listened to me. We worked together to find the right medications for me, and I began to wake up out of my psychosis. I also realized that I had suffered childhood traumas that were masked for me as just things kids do, and that I had developed coping skills with my journaling, exercising, dancing and prayer. Soon after, I began taking peer support classes.
I would have never in my wildest dreams believed that all the suffering and pain I went through would be worth anything. After living most of my life hiding, fearful that someone might find out about my mental health challenges, I can be me, with all my faults, failures and self-doubt.
My road to recovery has been long and hard, but becoming a peer support specialist for MHA-NYC has made it all worth it. The ability to create a mutually respectful and supportive connection with callers is rewarding without measure, as is the respect, support and mutual care that the staff at MHA-NYC has for one another. MHA-NYC has been the answer to my prayers in more ways than one.
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