Recovery Stories

My Recovery Story by Larry Scharnweber, Recovery Support Specialist at Stepping Stones

Over the years, people have unfailingly expressed disbelief when I share that I have a mental illness. People say things like, “but you have a job, a family!” At Stepping Stones, clients have said, “You couldn’t possibly have a mental illness because you’re staff!”  Hearing these words remind me of how far I’ve come and inspires me to want to instill HOPE into everyone who has a mental illness.

In my case, I wasn’t diagnosed until I was nearly 40 years old. For most of the 20 years prior to my diagnosis, I moved around the country from job to job. I would take a position with a company do well in the beginning, but before long my paranoid ideas would start intruding. Once the obsessive, paranoid ideas started, I didn’t have the skills to challenge or stop them; instead, I would begin my search for a new job somewhere where they would truly appreciate me. This repeated itself over and over again. In my first 15 years of marriage my wife and I moved 16 times! Most of the moves were from one state to another: Ohio, Iowa, New York, back to Iowa, Texas, Illinois, Washington DC area…finally in 1989, I moved my family to Rockford (for the second time). My wife told me that she was “through with moving” and if I took another job out of state it would be by myself. She finally put a stop to the costly (financial and emotional) moves I had put my family through.

My new employer, here in Rockford, had been a friend for some time. One Saturday I came in to work and found a lot more to do than I had planned on (or felt like doing). I completely lost it and started screaming at other people in the office. I called my boss/friend and told him that I was quitting and shared some things I thought about him personally (that were very mean). I went home. By late afternoon I realized what I had done and tried to withdraw my resignation. My boss/friend told me that he would accept me back as an employee, but only if (and after) I had gotten ‘some help.’  

Within a week I got an appointment with a Rockford psychiatrist and soon after got a diagnosis and medication. I was able to return to work and worked for the company for about another year.  Despite getting help and medications I didn’t get much better. I still changed jobs (following my old pattern) every 20-24 months until in the late summer of 2000 I got a job as a Recovery Support Specialist at Stepping Stones. Once I started working here the same issues that I had faced elsewhere returned. I would work successfully for some time at a site and then feel like I was being taken advantaged of or that my work was underappreciated and then I would try to get transferred to another site. Finally, in 2006 my attitude and tone of voice got the attention of other staff and supervisors. I was given my last chance to correct some of the behaviors I had been exhibiting or I would have to resign (or be fired) from Stepping Stones. 

The fear that I would lose this job made me take an inventory of my life and what I was responsible for. I made a commitment to myself to take my medications as prescribed, unlike in the past when I would frequently stop and restart taking my medication. Even more importantly, I took a long look at my behaviors and tried to identify the symptoms that might be triggering them. Over time I was able to manage doing a better job at controlling both my behaviors and my emotions.

One of the main reasons that I took my current position at Stepping Stones (Recovery Support Specialistwas so that I could openly share my story of recovery with others. I really enjoy the groups that I facilitate on Recovery and Wellness and find helping other people devise their personal Wellness Recovery Action Plans (WRAP) particularly beneficial. The area of which I am proudest is that I am in my 19th consecutive year at Stepping Stones, and no longer feel the need to move myself all over the country. Recovery made this all possible and it can for you too.

Stepping Stones of Rockford
706 N. Main Street
Rockford, IL 61103
815.963.0683

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