Bob’s Recovery Story

*Below is a transcript of Bob’s story.

“My name is Bob Curtis and I am a Certified Peer Support Specialist (CPS) at the Mental Health Association. 

I want all to know that recovery is possible.

It does not come easy. It takes work and support.

Recovery does not come in isolation. It takes a strong community.

The Mental Health Association is that strong community.”

Recovery covers many aspects. Life is not easy, but it sure is worth the trip if you do not give up. I lived in California and graduated from Palmdale High School in June of 1993. I was 18 years old. Like all 18 year olds, I had my entire future mapped out. I knew everything-Right? Wrong!

After graduation, I moved from California to Pittsburgh to live with my grandparents and attend college. My goal was to study music and theatre. I was not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I could hold my own academically.

I struggled with anxiety and depression that started as early as sixteen. I figured that it would pass in time. With my mother and father, mealtimes were very open. You could eat in front of the TV or anywhere you wanted. With my grandparents, you had to eat at the dinner table. I began struggling with my anxiety issues at the dinner table. I felt uncomfortable and trapped. My symptoms would manifest with a rapid heartbeat, perspiration and redness in my face. My grandmother would ask me if I was alright. That did not help much. After a while, the simple thought of having an anxiety attack would propel me into an attack. I worked hard at college. I had the opportunity to study music and theatre. I was excelling academically, things were looking good for me.

I began to struggle more and more towards the end of my second semester of college. My usual remedy would be to sleep it off. That worked for a while. Finally, sleep became more and more difficult. I found myself awake for two weeks. I did not raise my hand and ask for a mental illness. It was not my first choice. No one wants to be diagnosed with a mental illness. It is something that does happen and it is no one’s fault.

My grandmother made the choice to get me the help that I desperately needed. She was forced to 302 me. I did not like her for that decision for quite a while. When I look back, I realize that it was more difficult for her to make that decision than for me. She did not want to make that decision. She did save my life.

I was given a diagnosis. I was asked to take medication. I began to think more clearly and things were getting better. I discontinued my medications, and began to move forward once again. Then things began to go south. I was back in the hospital on New Year’s Day in 1995.

I worked for the next ten years as a Nursing Assistant at a Nursing home. I did not receive help from Social Security. I decided to continue my education by attending college and working full time. I worked full time and studied almost full time. I burned myself out. I reached the point where it was impossible to work. Without working, I could not afford to pay rent. I was facing the very real possibility of becoming homeless. I was blessed to receive Social Security Disability the first time I applied. I was able to pay back my landlord what I owed him. That is when I began to live again.

I have found that my life is better than I would have imagined after all these years of struggle with mental health issues. What I mean is this; I have had the opportunity to see my dreams come true. This did not happen on my time line. However in time, I have found my way. I have been married for over 11 years. I have been working at the Mental Health Association for 10 years.

While working at the Mental Health Association I was able to complete my training as a Certified Peer Specialist. I currently work as a CPS. Along with working one-on-one with my peers I also visit the inpatient unit at the hospital to give people hope in recovery. We are moving forward and lives are getting changed. Recovery is possible. The Mental Health Association is helping people recover. It is giving people their lives back and making a difference in the mental health community and the world at large.

What a privilege it is to walk into an office, and be part of a healthy community. There are many programs that the MHA promotes. I am always received with open arms when I step into the office and see people hard at work making a difference in the lives that receive services of this wonderful organization.

The Phoenix Center is full of my peers that are helping each other to find hope in recovery. Do you remember the show Cheers? Everyone knows my name.

If you or someone you love is struggling, the Mental Health Association of Beaver County is an awesome place to start the journey of recovery. Call 724-775-9507.