The Value of Peer Support – Alex’s Story

The experience of personality disorders can be alienating, causing people to have a distorted impression of themselves and their relationships with others. This can create a vicious cycle leading to more and more isolation. Coming together with others in the same position can be life-changing in enabling people to break cycles of isolation and move forward. This was certainly the case for Alex who initially sought support from our Personality Disorder Peer Support Group in 2017 before becoming a Volunteer Co-Facilitator of the group himself just two years later.

At CPSL Mind we offer a range of peer support groups for mental health conditions creating the opportunity to share experience and support with others. Our personality disorder group supports people to focus on coping skills and strategies to deal with difficult feelings and situations. Alex joined the group following a GP referral prompted from living with a personality disorder from his teens. After years of frustration, Alex felt desperate in terms of finding appropriate support saying “I thought I was beyond fixing and was in constant doubt about whether I could feel better”.

Approaching the group with caution Alex says he was quickly made to feel comfortable by the “level of courtesy and understanding” he was met with. This was underpinned by an atmosphere of empathy created by “having facilitators with lived experience of the same condition”. Alex was made to feel at ease within an environment where it he says it is “okay to have challenging conversations”. Most importantly, Alex was delighted to have “the opportunity to speak to others going through the same thing” and he “gained a lot of comfort from this process”.

The tools provided by the group enabled Alex to make positive changes in his life and develop coping strategies for when things get tough. Additionally, he was given an outlet for discussing his mental health among like-minded people. Alex says “the group didn’t take the place of doing the hard work of cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy myself but it was massively beneficial in helping me. There’s a huge gap in local service provision for us. It provided a routine when I was off work and was sometimes the only reason for me getting out of bed. Personality disorders don’t discriminate and you meet so many different people with unique life experiences. It’s awesome!”

Alex says he was “so impressed with how staff and volunteers ran the group” and this motivated him to become a Volunteer Co-Facilitator himself. Life still has its challenges for Alex and he has periods where he struggles with his mental health, but the support provided by the personality disorder group and the support he is now able to offer others has been fundamental to gaining stability. Alex says it is “incredibly satisfying seeing people change over the time you spend with them. I love it, one of the things in my diary that I never ever miss. It has been one of the most satisfying things I’ve done in my life.”

Our Personality Disorder Peer Support Groups are available in Cambridge, St Neots, Huntingdon, Ely, Sawston, Wisbech and Peterborough. For more information please click here.