I had to grow into this vocation as a Certified Peer Specialist. I remember back in July 2006 I had post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder I was so isolated, so fearful, so doubtful of my abilities even though I had a college degree. I felt that all the mental breakdowns had altered my brain and I struggled more. So, when my caseworker brought me the paper about the new peer specialist course that was 75 hours I immediately turned her down. I didn’t believe at that time after all my mental breakdowns that I could take a course like that. Later, my other caseworker came up to me and said they were doing Wellness Recovery Action Plans on the first day and that I would really benefit by just going for the first day. So, I said okay I could handle one day. I showed up and the instructor Carmen Bonanno was so enthusiastic and friendly and asked me if I was going to sign up for the entire course. I shared with her that I was going to only be there for the Wellness Recovery Action Plan for that day. She then encouraged for me to take the whole course and she said she would personally help me every step of the way. That certainly made my day! I decided to take the peers specialist course.
I went through the entire 75 hour course and I scored the highest score on my Peer Specialist exam. At the end of the course a representative from the Mental Health Association showed up looking for peer specialist candidates to work doing Peer Specialist work on the phones for people who called in. I applied for the job and I got it. And that is how I got my first job after being unemployed for 8 long years. If Carmen hadn’t believed in me or held my hand I don’t know where I would be today 7 years later.