DBSA Staff Reflections of 2013

The holiday season is in full bloom at the national office in Chicago for the close-knit family formally known as the DBSA staff. Baking elves are mysteriously leaving cookies in the conference room. We take a little longer to linger over our morning coffee while enjoying tasteful treats from goody baskets that have arrived. It is during these quiet moments of sharing companionship that we find the time to reflect on the inspiration you, our extended family, bring to us each and every day of the year. We can think of no better holiday present than to share a small sampling of the inspiration from peers we are so fortunate to be on the receiving end of. Happy Holidays from your DBSA family.

When I look back at 2013—as with every year I’ve been fortunate to be part of the DBSA family—I’m struck by how much my staff colleagues accomplish. The knowledge, talent, passion, and dedication that each of them brings to their work at DBSA accounts for the fact that we do so much with a comparatively small staff team. All of the staff are doing the work of three of four people, and they’re doing it because it’s personal: they’re helping their peers. The DBSA team is also able to achieve so much because we’re blessed not only to be working with one another on the staff level, but to have colleagues all over the world: our peers who are chapter members and support group participants; our volunteer community that’s growing with the addition of the Balanced Mind programming; our generous and dedicated Board; the Veteran peers we learn with and from in trainings; and the peers and partners at a growing number of collaborating organizations. Strengthened and supported by all of you, the staff I’m so proud to be a member of is doing great things…and that’s why I treasure each day here, and why I can’t wait for 2014!  Allen Doederlein, President

I was particularly moved by a comment one of our 2013 national conference attendees shared with me at the close of the weekend. She said the conference was the first time since her diagnosis two years ago that anyone had told her that she could get well, not just better, and that she now had changed her goal to complete wellness. Which reinforced to me that hope, paired with truth and knowledge, is perhaps the best gift DBSA, and each of us, can give. Cindy Specht, Executive Vice President

My gift each year is to be a witness to the recovery stories shared by the participants in DBSA peer specialist training courses, and 2013 has been no exception. Earlier this year, a training participant finished his story, looked around the group who had been listening, and said to us, “I’ve never told all of that to anyone before.” That’s the truth-telling power of peer support, plain and simple. To all:  your stories inspire all of us at DBSA to do what we do, in support of you. Lisa Goodale, Vice President, Peer Support Services

Watching people overcome stigma and publicly comment without shame or fear of retribution during DBSA’s first-ever attendance at National Hill Day is a daily inspiration.  Your courage to fight for the civil rights of all people living with mental health conditions emboldens me too, to step beyond my own comfort zone. Phyllis Foxworth, Advocacy Manager

I am inspired each day by the time, effort, and heart that DBSA chapter participants devote to fulfilling our shared mission in their communities. They energize and refresh me. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to help people share their stories and in turn help others through supporting our chapters. They motivate me to also be open about my experience which has been empowering and healing to me personally. Stephanie Kubik, Manager, Chapter Relations

To choose just one interaction that inspired me would be impossible! I am lucky enough to spend at least one week a month with peers at DBSA Peer Specialist training. To say that I learn from and am inspired by the peers I spend time with doesn’t touch upon the impact these experiences have made on me. This group of people, the peer specialists who are using their own experiences to help others, have taught me about wellness, life, and the value in the connections we make with one another every day. The participants in DBSA Peer Specialist training have made me a better person, just by sharing who they are with me. I am energized every day by the passion and energy that exists in peers supporting peers.  Mary Dean, Peer Support Services Manager

DBSA receives letters every day from our constituents and their loved ones. I am touched by the courage and tenacity I see in these writings that describe the daily walk towards hope and joy.  Nancy Heffernan,  Vice President / Finance and Administration

My job as DBSA’s new parent volunteer coordinator involves exchanging emails with many parents who are just at the beginning of their journey. They arrive at our doorstep feeling alone and overwhelmed and seeking support. One recent afternoon, a mom emailed me with her story, and her 8-year-old son reminded me a lot of my now 20-year-old son at that age. I told her that while my son was once depressed, withdrawn and academically underachieving, he is now a college sophomore, majoring in therapeutic recreation, and he hopes someday to help kids like himself. She immediately emailed back, ‘That brought tears to my eyes. It’s so hard not getting sucked into all the negative aspects of what we’re struggling with, and our darkest fear is that we can’t help him and that we become a story on the news of a kid who got lost in the system. You are the first person I’ve spoken to who has been on this side and given me genuine hope that we can get to the other. I’m going home with a lighter heart than I arrived with today.' But what she didn’t see when I read her email were the tears that sprang to my eyes. It’s not every day that we are given the gift of ‘paying it forward’ in such a direct and meaningful way. Julia Small, Parent Volunteer Coordinator

This year I had the joy of communicating with one of our donors that makes a recurring gift each month. What I enjoyed most was her commitment to helping others and her passion for the work she was supporting. She had recently reached a positive point in her life and could not wait to help others reach their own. Each time she would call in or share a quote/story with our community, it reminded me why the work we do is so important and how being a part of a community of peers enriches that work. Brittany Telander, Development Manager

As the web manager, most of my communication is via email and I don't often talk or see the people that use all of the online and print resources DBSA has. Earlier this year when I was on the bus with a new acquaintance, he asked me where I worked. I relayed that I work at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. His face lit up and he shared with me that he goes to a local DBSA support group. It warmed my heart that he we were already connected and didn't know it. Maria Margaglione, Web Manager