My name is Dave. I was born in 1959, and I come from an average home. I was fine until Valentine’s Week of 1989. Then my world turned inside out and I plunged into the unknown world of Mental Health. I was diagnosed with Paranoid Psychotic Schizophrenia and my life was over.
After a year of therapy and doctor visits, it changed to Bipolar and Schizo-Affective Disorder. Later ADD was added and, finally, General Anxiety Disorder. The early years showed little progress until a friend who was staff at the local Vocational Clubhouse asked me to try to apply for the part time Assistant Director of the Drop-In-Center at Torrance State Hospital. I said that I wasn’t qualified – but she kept asking. Finally, I did apply and, surprisingly, landed the job. That was the turning point and start of my recovery. I later became the part time supervisor for a Creative Workshop while I attended ITT Technical Institute full time. These were the tough years because I had so much to do. However, I managed to complete my Associate’s in Programming.
I was confident until I couldn’t find a decent job to support my family and go off of SSD. So I decided to start Handyman Dave.
The business went well for a year (building income gradually). Then the economy went and I had no work for 3 months. I decided to look for a part time work to supplement my business. I talked to my Administrative Case Manager about it and he suggested that I call about the MHA of Westmoreland Peer Mentor Program. I decided to apply and was hired. This work was also at Torrance State Hospital. I was nervous, but loved it. After a year or so, I was asked to go to train as a Certified Peer Specialist. I almost didn’t make it. However, due to great supports, I did well on the tests and graduated.
After about 6 more months as Peer Mentor, I noticed that the first Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) at Torrance was not able to address the needs of the other main building at the hospital because he was by himself and only had time for one building. I talked to him and asked it the other building would be addressed if someone applied for the second CPS position at the hospital. He said absolutely. Until that conversation, I never had any intentions of leaving the Peer Mentor Program.
I prayed about my decision to leave the Peer Mentor Program and also talked to my supervisor, who said that I needed to do what I felt was best. I applied and was hired.
I love my job and being off SSD, but my head still has its down spots. My coworkers, my wife (of 19 years) and family, and my friends are a tremendous support and I am now starting my second year as a full time Certified Peer Specialist at Torrance State Hospital.
Dave is a State Certified Peer Specialist at Torrance State Hospital.
Submit your mental health recovery story here.