Managing PTSD and ADHD: The Power of Recovery and Facing Your Feelings

Melissa Saady, Peer Specialist | Reduce The Stigma - Meet The Peer

Melissa Saady Peer Specialist Virginia in a green shirt PTSD ADHD trauma recovery

Using her own experiences with PTSD, ADHD, and addiction, Melissa decided to channel her journey into a meaningful career. Melissa completed extensive training and obtained certifications as a Peer Specialist, equipping her with the necessary tools to make a difference in the lives of those she encounters. Melissa has always been driven by her desire to help others and her passion for providing support and helping others be successful shines bright in this interview.

Melissa’s Approach:

With her warm and compassionate demeanor, Melissa creates a safe and non-judgmental environment for individuals seeking support. She actively listens to their stories, offering a genuine understanding of their struggles. Melissa’s main goal is to empower others and guide them towards their own path to recovery.

The Impact of Melissa’s Work:

Through her work as a Peer Specialist, Melissa has touched the lives of countless individuals in Richmond, Virginia and across the US. She has provided invaluable support to those battling mental health challenges, helping them navigate the complexities of their journeys. Melissa’s dedication and expertise have earned her a reputation as a trusted resource in the community.

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Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (00:00)

Today we’re revisiting our very first episode of Meet the Peer with Melissa Soddy. Melissa talks about the importance of facing our emotions and truly feeling them to work through to the other side. And she talks about the importance of self -love and having that internal strength and confidence to be exactly who you were meant to be, yourself. Stay tuned and be ready to be inspired as we continue to reduce the stigma.


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (01:33)

Hello and welcome to Meet the Peer, a special series where we shine the spotlight on peer specialists. Meet the Peer is brought to you by Straight Up Care. With a mission to empower peer recovery professionals, Straight Up Care provides a multi-use platform and resources for peer specialists to share their lived experiences and build a positive connection with those in the recovery community. On this episode of Meet the Peer, we have Melissa Saady, a certified peer recovery specialist in Virginia.


Welcome, Melissa.


Mel Saady (02:05)

Hi, happy to be here.


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (02:07)

Thank you so much for joining us. Can you share a little bit with me about your journey, your lived experience?


Mel Saady (02:15)

So I have been in recovery from addiction for six years now. Actually coming up on my six year mark in a couple weeks.


And this is something that while working in the field, I’ve learned this is a very common thing that happens is I had an injury where I broke several bones. And I was then prescribed painkillers from the doctors because, you know, that’s what you do when you have a severe injury and these painkillers flipped a switch in my brain. And then suddenly, suddenly I was seeking out.


all these substances and it just kind of snowballed from there and it was about a decade in active addiction and then about six years ago I got into recovery and I have always wanted to be able to help people in some way and in my


When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher, a nurse, a therapist, something of that nature. And now that I’m a person in recovery, I’ve realized that lived experience as a person in recovery is so valuable because you can reach people in a way that other clinicians can’t really reach them. So. When I was.


staying at this recovery community organization, this place was run completely by peers. And that to me was very inspiring. Just seeing people like in a place, in that kind of position that were once where I was, was very inspiring. And I think that is one of the main goals of a peer recovery specialist is to be inspiration to those


who are in a place where they need a little bit of hope. So I love being able to be that person that helps fuel somebody’s hope.


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (04:34)

That’s really exactly what a peer support is, right? I mean, you are interested in being a nurse, being a teacher, being a counselor, and all of those fields are pulled skills and passions are pulled into being a peer. And then that hope, can you tell me a little bit more about how peers can provide hope?


Mel Saady (04:43)





Yes, hope. So that is kind of, that is one of the main things that peers do is they provide hope to people who are in need of that. A lot of people, when they come into treatment or when they’re seeking recovery or when they’re struggling with some sort of, when they’re struggling with some sort of mental, when they’re struggling, sorry, let me say that over, when they’re struggling with,


mental illness or substance use disorder, they kind of lose hope because it puts you in a very, it puts you in a really dark place where you kind of feel like there’s no way out. So you kind of, you often get stuck in these cycles of just repeating the same thing over and over again, even though you know it’s not really helping. And then when you see a peer who has walked the walk and they have


walked this path before you. So that’s kind of what the pier is there to do there. They’ve walked they’ve already walked this path. I’ve already walked this path and I can show you the way and I’m not I can’t do it for you but I’m going to walk alongside you while you’re doing it and cheer you on the whole way.


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (06:20)

That’s very powerful to be able to have someone who’s there for you through such hard times.


Mel Saady (06:27)

Mm-hmm. It really is. And a lot of times that’s all somebody really needs is just to feel, feel like somebody cares about them. Um, really that’s also my needs is to feel like somebody cares about them and feel like they really support them. Cause sometimes, sometimes we get, we get in these places where we feel so disconnected from everybody. And really the


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (06:29)

in our


Mel Saady (06:54)

The opposite of recovery is not sobriety by definition. It is connection by definition. Connection is the opposite of addiction. So when you fill your life with support and connections of people who really care about you and care for your best interests, then that is how you work your way out of addiction.


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (07:21)

So a peer can truly be that person who’s there to start that connection, be a strong, stable connection along the way.


Mel Saady (07:31)

Mm-hmm, exactly.


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (07:34)

And you touched on your experience with addiction. What other experiences do you offer peer support for?


Mel Saady (07:44)

Other experiences that I have are…


Other experiences that I have are with PTSD. I have complex PTSD and also with ADHD, something that I’ve been managing for quite a while. And all of these things get so much easier once you take the substances away. That actually gives you the opportunity to really.


figure out what is going on within you instead of just drowning it out or numbing it out using substances. Because what I’ve learned is that when you are using when you are using something and it’s not always a drug or alcohol or some sort of substance right there’s so many different things that we can use to numb out. So when you’re using something to numb out


It may temporarily numb the pain, yes, but it does not make it go away. It’s always still going to remain there. So when you stop using things to numb out, that’s when you can really actually figure out what’s going on and work through it and just feel it through all the way together, all the way to the other side.


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (09:10)

Right, right, really live through it in a different way.


Mel Saady (09:15)



Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (09:16)

Is there anything people should know about your style as a peer specialist?


Mel Saady (09:31)

My style as a peer specialist, I would say I have a pretty wide ranging style. I don’t like to kind of keep myself in one little.


Hmm, trying to figure out how to say that.


My style is a peer recovery specialist.


would I would describe as


My style as a peer recovery specialist, I would describe as being pretty.


eclectic or dynamic, I suppose you could say. So I like to take from different pathways and really just cater to the needs of the individual. So whatever is resonating the most with them, that’s what I’m going to be there to provide for them. I do like to look at individuals holistically. So


I do, I believe a lot in holistic care, looking at a person as a, as a whole organism and not just as one symptom that they’re experiencing. Um, I also, I, I use, uh, faith based practices. I like to use mindfulness practices a lot. I’m really big on teaching, teaching folks about grounding techniques and just, you know, all the different kinds of


coping skills that you can use.


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (11:25)

That’s great, really meeting the person and seeing what they need and what will work for them.


Mel Saady (11:26)





Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (11:35)

And there is so much stigma around substance use disorder, mental health. Uh, if you had only one thing you could say to challenge stigma, what would it be?


Mel Saady (12:03)

Keeping something in the shadows is how it thrives. So when we are afraid to talk about these kinds of things, that’s when they get really scary and really big and really dangerous. But if we’re able to actually just have a conversation, not be scared to bring it up, not be scared to tell people what’s going on, that lessens the power of it significantly.


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (12:32)

Wonderful. And there’s going to be someone out there who watches this interview or maybe listens to it and they’re having a difficult time. What would you like them to hear?


Mel Saady (13:00)

I would like them to hear that there are people out there that care about you. There are people that care. Please don’t tell yourself that, that nobody cares about you or there is no hope because there are people that care about you and want the best for you. I promise that.


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (13:20)

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?


Mel Saady (13:33)

Oh, some other things that I’m very, some other things that I’m very passionate about are working with women and queer folks and working to empower them, help them feel empowered and themselves just feel, you know, more rooted within themselves and not, not feel the need to.


constantly get validation from somebody else to make sure they’re doing the right thing. Like I want you to be able to trust yourself. I’m also very experienced working in grief support settings. I have experienced a lot of loss in my life from a pretty young age. And so.


I know that, so I’m pretty familiar with grief and how grief affects a person’s life and can affect your mind, how it can trigger certain things like substance misuse and all kinds of things like that. And grief is one, another thing that there’s a lot of stigma around. People don’t really feel safe to just talk about it. Like if you’re…


If you’re really missing a loved one that just died, most people don’t feel safe to just talk about that with anybody. So I like to pride myself in providing that safe space for people to just open up about what’s going on with them.


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (15:08)

for something that we all experience. We certainly don’t make it easy for people to talk about it. So that’s wonderful that you’re gonna be able to support people through those tough, tough experiences.


Mel Saady (15:23)

Thank you.


Whitney Menarcheck | she/her (15:25)

Thank you so much for joining me today. I am just so hopeful and uplifted knowing that you’re going to be there to support people. So thank you so much.


Mel Saady (15:37)

Thank you so much for asking me to be here today.


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