Personal Story

Feature Issue on Person-Centered Positive Supports and People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

My Journey to Trust and Gratitude


Lee Porter lives in Berlin, Vermont.

A portrait of Lee Porter. Lee is a man. He is wearing a casual button down shirt. He is smiling at the camera.

My story is very different and separate from the average story you would find in a typical mental health establishment. It is that of many great steps forward and a few giant mistakes that taught me my values in life.

My family, like many others, has faced several challenges in the few decades of our co existence. But in the great scheme of things, we came out much better for them in the end.

 The support system I receive at Upper Valley Moretown is unlike any support I’ve had in my life. The people there have become my family and friends, and have always been there to work around me and my needs. You may ask what makes Upper Valley Moretown unique and unlike other agencies? Well, it is the simple notion that they treat each person as an equal individual. Not as someone whose needs differ greatly from any other person’s needs, but as someone who can be treated the same as anyone else you might meet. In the course of this they address jobs, personal and community care, relationship etiquette, ethics, forming healthy relationships, and being able to recognize changes in one’s self. 

In the years before I was introduced to this program, I struggled with mood swings; learning how to cope with behavior issues in the community, workplace, relationships; and with learning how to cope with honesty issues. I was mainly living in Montpelier for several years before placement through Upper Valley. I had a multitude of roommates and mentors, chosen by my parents, some of which pairings were successful while others weren’t.

Recently we held a life planning meeting, and as I have been a poet for the last 16 years I wrote a poem of thanks to show how much I appreciate my team’s efforts. However, before this meeting we had several similar planning meetings where I was finally able to grasp the concept of the need to work with these types of willing life coaches. For years I thought it was pointless to take advice or help from people, until I saw how useful this thought process was, not only to my own growth throughout time but for other people with the same struggle. Here is a piece of my poem to them:

You all are my family

You all are my friends

That is why we are gathered here

Together today

Beginning to make amends

I see you as equals

I see you as peers

I’ve made my soul confessions

And prayed to all the heavens

Now I choose my own defense

It’s the ink within this pen

Now may I recess

To the corners of my mind.

The idea of this piece came after years of successfully navigating hard situations with my family and support team. By all of us meeting together at this planning meeting, I was able to lay out an idea that everyone could get their head around while still validating their concerns and questions. In a way, this was the beginning of me teaching myself and everyone else it’s ok to trust and try to let go, even if fearful of the next step.

In the search to find the perfect organization to serve my needs, we of course came across some undesirables. I know that without having gone through that trial period, though, I never would have become the man I am today. It allowed me to find a calm and a peace within my center that never need be compromised. This process also instilled in me a belief system of simple spirituality and life acceptance, knowing I can’t always control what happens to the people I care about.

I was also able to successfully build an outside trusting relationship with my parents, where before there had been a sense of resentment. That feeling now has washed away with pride, love, and respect. If not for the efforts of my team at Upper Valley Moretown, my surrounding family and community, and the inner efforts of myself, I doubt whether many of these amazing changes would have happened. Upper Valley is responsible also for my part-time employment in the workplace and in developing my working relationships in a healthy, mature way. I am forever grateful to these people who I am proud to call friends and family.