I recently had occasion to be traveling by plane on a business trip. I had thought that I would spend my travel time preparing for my upcoming meetings by reviewing some materials about which I would be presenting with a colleague. I had done so on my first flight, but by the second leg I was itching to watch a video on my Nook or read a fiction book. For the first few minutes of the flight, I couldn’t utilize my device, so I thought I would re-familiarize myself with the evaluation report for the foundation’s East Texas Coalition for Mental Health Recovery so that I could have the background material fresh in my mind for the presentation the next day.

I know you’re thinking, “Evaluation report, real compelling read, right?”

The report starts out sharing the stories heard, through interviews and focus groups, of the coalition’s first group of peer specialists. These are individuals with lived experiences of mental health conditions who, through their own recovery and training, have come to a point where they can offer peer support to other consumers of mental health services.

Do you know that I couldn’t put the report down?

Much like the first time I read it, I was so moved by the powerful stories of “Before” and “After” these individuals experienced recovery. Before their involvement with the coalition, they were experiencing extreme isolation and hopelessness:

“There was one stage in my life when I really didn’t think recovery was possible. I didn’t think I had a choice but to be drugged all the time, or just exist. I was at a point in my life when I just did not have any hope of recovery.”

“My life was full of chaos and pain, existing like a zombie.”

After receiving education, training and support through the coalition, they expressed hope and empowerment.

“I feel more powerful, not power over others, just a sense of being more grounded and unafraid to make a decision.”

“Recovery means living. And there’s a whole world out there that is there to explore. It’s an adventure, and every day you wake up and you’re ready for the adventure. You’re not hiding away anymore.”

I didn’t close the report until the plane landed. The Nook stayed in my bag. My eyes were teary, just like the first time I read it.

Lives being transformed by mental health recovery. That’s powerful stuff.