Today my life is full of meaning and purpose. As a Peer Support Specialist (which means I am a veteran as well as having a mental illness) for the La Crosse, WI VA mental health clinic, I work part-time, seeing patients on an individual basis, sharing my story of suffering and recovery, doing problem-solving and goal setting, directing veterans to external resources and doing a lot of listening , giving heartfelt support to people of all ages who suffer from PTSD, bipolar mood disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and more. It is intensely rewarding to use my story and skills in this way.
Another part of my work is to be out in the community in various capacities. Being a board member of the La Crosse Area Mental Health Coalition is a work of love as is being on an advisory council for the psych ward at Gundersen Health Systems. On many occasions I speak in the community, sharing my “Tough Grace” speech (see Presentations section of this website) or being part of panels. I speak to many Viterbo University classes, whether nursing, mental health counseling or others, and my book, Tough Grace: Mental Illness As A Spiritual Path, has been used as a text in several classes. It is an important part of my mission to speak like this, much of which is on my own time, and I love the question and answer periods. Instructors say that this first-hand storytelling is often life-changing for students. For me it is a chance to speak for “the voiceless ones.”
A beloved part of my life is writing. Besides the books listed at this site, I have another book, Odyssey Through Madness in the pipeline as well as a book of prose poems called Proclamations from the Humanarchy: From Madness to a New Era In History. There may be even more as I proceed with life after the VA. Along with more writing and exploring some possible hobbies, I plan a profession as a “Spiritual Companion” after being certified as a Spiritual Director which is achieved through a rigorous, 3-year Spiritual Direction Preparation Program. This involves accompanying people who want to go deeper in life and find more connection with the divine, however, that may be defined. A Spiritual Companion does a lot of deep listening and drawing out insights and inner growth from the client. It will be an opportunity for me to share my empathy, caring and elder wisdom as I witness to this sacred work.
You will see in the Speeches section of this website how much I value “Listening As A Sacred Art.” The people who listened to me on my journey saved my life in large and small ways. Never doubt the power of being able to listen deeply to another. As Paul Tillich said, “the first duty of love is to listen.” I try to live my life that way. I look back with satisfaction, I try to live in the present and I look forward to being a wise elder, spiritual companion and loving friend. Much of this abundance comes from standing on a lot of tall shoulders for my entire life, but it comes as well from reframing my recent life as a “tough grace,” and that has made all the difference. My fondest hope is that you too will find a place of grace through the material you find at this site.