By Roy, a Certified Peer Specialist, SCI Albion, Pennsylvania*
This part of my life started in Philadelphia after the death of my grandma, who died in my arms when I was about the age of seven. I had trouble coping with the tragedy that tore my life apart. I couldn’t understand why my life had changed so fast. I had trouble coping with the loss of my Grandma, and began secluding myself from others, not wanting to be around people. I fell into a state of depression and tried to commit suicide many times, because I didn’t have a sense of hope; I felt like no one cared so what was the use of living.
This went on for years. I had to cope with pain, depression, and substance abuse. During this time I started going to the Hispanic Community Center, where I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But my life was still out of control. I had turned to the streets for a sense of acceptance because I felt like they could provide me with the hope that I had lost. But I was wrong.
My life spiraled out of control. I started committing crimes because I didn’t know how to make the depression go away. The first state bid I did I though was like a badge of honor in the street. But when I was sent back up state a second time, I began to really take a look at myself and ask for help to get a better understanding of me.
So My Journey started when I allowed someone to help me. I began to take classes like mental health awareness, mental health management, and house of healing because something in me wanted to change.
Through the cares and concerns of my family and friends, I had to look deep within myself and ask questions such as “Is this how I want to be remembered, as someone who knew he could be somebody but wasted his life?” The answer I came up with was “No!” I need to make a change for myself.
So I took the first step. I became a CPS (Certified Peer Specialist). I help people that are struggling like I was to know that there is hope and to give them encouragement. I’ve also taken a correspondence course of Drug/Alcohol Treatment Specialist.
These are just the beginning steps, and I plan on continuing this course of my life that I love. I’m the Evidence for how believe inspires, how hope transforms, and how giving heals the soul.
This story was submitted to ITE/MH through Supporting Incarcerated Veterans Training, a collaboration among the PA Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS), Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association, and Drexel University.