Before I stepped foot in the Western Mass RLC, I felt really lost. I had recently spent some time in the psych system again, and was back to questioning being in this world again in spite of all the treatment. I could tell from my experience that the mental health system was f*d up, but didn’t know how deep and how far it went. I didn’t know there was people who questioned or rejected mental health diagnosis or taking medications. What I did know was I sure as hell not going back to a hospital and was tired of trying to fight on my own. I’m not trying to profess the RLC or peer-support of some kind of miracle “cure” (do we really need “cured” anyways?), but I will say it was incredible to be in a space and part of a community where all parts of my life story are speak able and I question the things I’d been told all my life by clinicians. For instance, I’d been told when I was 14 I had a gene for eating disorders and depression. I concluded that it would be unethical to have children, a sort of internalized eugenics. While I am not aiming to start popping children out anytime soon, my “flawed” genes aren’t going to be the reason now. There’s been countless revelations through my stay at Afiya and work there and the centers. Even something as simple as knowing someone knows what it’s like or isn’t going to judge you or the thoughts in your head is huge. There aren’t enough spaces and communities like this. We can’t afford to lose any of the ones we’ve got. Contrary to being part of the system, I experienced the Western Mass RLC as a radical alternative. Radical might not look like people writing letters and protesting every day, though there’s plenty of that. It’s also making a space for people with all kinds of experience, including those who are more involved with traditional mental health services and might not want to revolt against them for a variety of reasons. It also means space for people who may identify more with homelessness or incarceration instead of a diagnosis. It means for making a space for individual people’s story and battling the system. Yes, peer support can be co-opted, like any good idea, but the solution is not watch as it is shut down, but work to take it back from being treatment plan enforcers and medication administrators. I was shocked and saddened when I heard we were on the chopping block. While no one is perfect, I think the RLC’s do make a difference for individuals and the larger system. Unfortunately the facts of life are we have to get funding to survive. I’m going to go write some legislators, I urge you to do the same.