Brief history: let me introduce myself to those who don’t know me. My name is Mike
peterson and my wife of 16 years struggles with a mental illness. Her diagnosis is
borderline personality disorder, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder.
With these illness she also deals with self injury in the form of cutting and chronic suicidal
thoughts. (that is not the actual term I think it is suicide idealization).
She has been struggling with this most of her life but the symptoms started coming more
to the surface in her teens. Amanda finally came to see her doctors for treatment 9 years
Jump forward to the present: watching from the sidelines has been incredibly difficult
for me. I did my best to support her in any way I could. But finally during one of her crisis
sitting with her in our home holding her crying and in such a dark place, (she had earlier
this week had been voluntarily committed to keep her safe and had been home for 2 days)
I asked her what I could do more or pray about. Her response through the darkness in her
mind was just to “calm her thoughts , PEACE”.)
later the next week while sitting out in the waiting room for her to come out from doctor
Hougen’s appointment there at W.M.C. It came to me, bicycling has always been
important to me and amanda so it just seemed natural to use that somehow. As we talked
this through it was always clear that it would be a little easier if mental illness didn’t have
such a bad stigma attached to it. Our church family and of our family always asked how
they could help or pray for us but we found it hard to explain what she goes through. So
amanda decided then and there that she wanted to be more transparent, to be blunt and to
the point with people to BREAK DOWN THE STIGMA so people didn’t feel it was
unapproachable, or she was unapproachable. And this is where PEACE BE THE
JOURNEY awareness ride for mental health. Our goal is to bring awareness to mental
illness and break down the stigma that accompanies these illness and hopefully help the
managing of these illness.
All that being said, I did not realize the flood gate I opened from day one when I started
organizing P.B.J. There truly hasn’t been a 2 week period and I cautiously say even a week
period that doesn’t go by without some one walking up to me and also amanda asking
about some aspect of PBJ or her struggles of mental illness or me as her husband helping
and supporting her. Also people with mental illness reach out to us out of the blue just so
they have contact and don’t feel alone. Here or just a few of these occurrences. So you
have idea of the need and weight that PBJ has developed in just the 2 events so far.
I’d like to start with this in mind. I am typing this as my memory brings them to me
so they are not in any given order. And these are just a few. Also I won’t give names
to people, we understand that not everyone with mental illness’s are not at the same
place we are.
● The first year of planning PEACE BE THE JOURNEY I was riding my bike home,
(i commute 10 miles from our home on Canoe Ridge rd. to Deco manufacturing and
back each day). I had stopped at Casey’s store to grab some water when I came out
to my bike a man was standing there looking at it. (My bike for future knowledge
has on its top tube the words PEACE BE THE JOURNEY) he had received a flier
earlier that week that I had been placing on bikes and also handing out. His
comment to me was that he was a happy an event for this was in the works, he told
me “ bicycling is an important part of his therapy” and he’s right many of the
therapy techniques: mindfulness and meditation, breathing etc. cyclist use every
time we ride.
● At a rotary presentation after talking about PBJ ,toward the end of cleaning up an
older gentleman walked up to me (most everyone had left) he quietly said to me
with wet eyes that he was glad that we had the courage to do this and he wished that
the negative stigma wasn’t there. He told me had a younger brother that early on his
life had developed a mental illness and at that time the practiced treatment was to
send people away to asylums. His family did that and he had never seen his brother
until he passed just a few years back. This man told me I was the first person he had
ever told this to ever. And he was glad to be able to unburden this memory and guilt
even though at the time his brother was sent away he wasn’t the one to make the
decision he felt the guilt because the stigma was so ingrained in him he never took
opportunity to visit his brother. I have to add right here, that this was the first time
I realized the responsibility that I have to make sure that we stay with our
fundamental goal TO RAISE AWARENESS AND BREAKDOWN THE STIGMA.
This mans story sticks with me and weighs on me heavily. In a good way.
● Amanda and I have many stories just like the above stories. Even this year one week
before the ride amanda and I were placing PEACE BE THE JOURNEY sign at the
dug road portion of the trail and as a runner passed by she turned and said that she
had registered for the ride. I thanked her as she walked over to us to tell her life with
a mental illness and how she had just moved to town last year at the same time that
we had launched PBJ. She was to busy with settling in she didn’t have a chance to
come. but during the next year leading up to our second annual event she had heard
about it from several people around town and look forward to attending.
● Even though this years PEACE BE THE JOURNEY was rained out. We have still
reached a lot of people. The following week while sitting outside the Coop after a
ride six different people stopped to make positive comments about PBJ and thanked
me for starting it. But one of the most positive things was an invitation to sheriff
Dan Marx meeting with health care and legal professionals about the injustice to
mental illness patients. It was a honor to be able to give our perspective. And the
second positive thing is this opportunity with WMC.
thank you so much, and I hope you can see that through these stories that my
thought to start PEACE BE THE JOURNEY went from a singular selfish idea to
what it is just 2 years later to something that is needed in the community and with
your help has lots of room to grow and reach many many more!