Jen Carter grew up in Marin and at age 26 was diagnosed with bipolar disorder following the birth of her daughter. Living in Hawaii and then Colorado, she found herself at a disadvantage when seeking resources to support her well-being. It wasn’t until she moved back to Marin about three years ago that she found help that worked for her at Community Action Marin’s Enterprise Recovery Center (ERC).
At the ERC, Jen quickly got involved as a volunteer and immersed herself in the Peer Movement, a community of individuals working to elevate awareness about mental health issues and supportive pathways to recovery. At the ERC, Jen took the agency’s county-approved 12-week series of classes to become a Peer Support Specialist. The community bond that was so evident within the walls of the ERC helped her feel that she had finally found her tribe and a place where she could be unabashedly herself.
The ERC was a comfortable place where people could socialize, play games, and take art classes; and it was also a place where people could communicate openly with others who truly understood the struggles that accompany mental health challenges. Between the support groups, peer groups, women’s group, and dual diagnosis groups, there was an immense sense of kinship and acceptance: exactly what Jen had been seeking for so long. It is also what allowed her to realize (fairly early on during her training classes) that the work taking place at the ERC was precisely what she wanted to do as a career.
Though it’s only been a few years since joining the ERC community and a few months as the Admin and Marketing Coordinator, Jen has quickly taken to her staff role. She still makes it a priority to be on the floor every day to practice support with her peers and run the women’s group. Jen prides herself on being able to be a part of making a difference in others’ lives, just as she experienced first-hand not too long ago when she first arrived at the ERC. “I’m grateful for this community,” she says, “It’s more than my work now, it’s like a family.”