Audrey’s Story: The Positive Impact of Peer Support
—“Only the fact that there are others out in this great big world, going through the same things/feelings and rough patches as I am.”
This is how Audrey starts the last of our several email exchanges after I have asked her what was her most important takeaway from Better Choices Better Health® (BCBH). We’ve been emailing throughout March and April about her personal experience with BCBH as a participant, and the impact on her overall story. I am thankful for her insights and allowing me to understand her journey, and she is “so thankful for allowing [her] to share.” She describes:
“I joined the program through my employer as a way to help myself stay healthy with my chronic condition. Though I know this part of my life is not easy, their words of encouragement let me know that things are gonna be alright … it may not be tomorrow, a week, or a year from now. I just know that I keep up the work not only because I have to, but because I want to stay healthy and enjoy my life to the fullest. It helps to have others who truly understand exactly what you are going through and are willing to lend an ear.”
At the point of reading this, I lean back in my chair. This is so much of the story of peers helping peers – a combination of being comforted by not feeling alone in one’s health challenges combined with words of encouragement and often even stories of others’ success.
Audrey engaged in the BCBH workshop late last year with 24 other participants. Participants were from most of the country including Wisconsin, California, Utah, Delaware, Texas, South Carolina, and Oregon –where Audrey lives. Sixty-five percent were women and 35% were men and their ages ranged from 26 to 84. A testament to both the power of a diverse group and the commonality of how chronic conditions impact peoples’ lives similarly even across gender, geography, and age.
I write Audrey a follow up email and receive my response.
“The part(s) that stood out to me were having others like myself, with the same or slightly different issues and we were able to chime in on each other’s concerns. Session 3 was really great because it helped me out with a few ways to manage how I could be relaxing more, managing the fatigue that comes with work. Just getting a good night’s sleep was on the menu as well. The fact that I have learned to better myself by setting some realistic goals and adding in a few low impact exercises, is fantastic.”