A Recovery Journey: Thresholds Staff Member Jim Janusz’ Story
In spring of 1993, Jim Janusz began college with a full Army ROTC scholarship and a promising future ahead. Jim had always been an ambitious student who strove to balance his new academic responsibilities and form a network of friends in his new environment, but by age 19, he felt as though his world turned upside down. Lost in the darkness of a mental illness he had yet to realize he was living with, he experienced his first hospitalization and withdrew from classes. “I never returned to college in the fall” said Janusz, “I felt entirely disconnected from my friends, as the shame seemed almost unbearable.”
For the next eight years, he searched for a solution to reclaim his life. When reflecting on this time, Janusz said his mood seemed to change as often as his diagnosis, suffering symptoms including mania, delusions, paranoia, and resulting in several hospitalizations. He described one hospital, The Rock Creek Center in Lemont, Illinois, as a “beacon of hope” for his recovery. While these were his first glimpses of a brighter future, he was still struggling with intense internal chaos, explaining “My mind and spirit felt trapped and pulled in a thousand different directions. I sometimes felt a vague rage within, like I was being torn inside.” While this was incredibly challenging, he marks this as the point where he reframed his recovery, shifting his focus from illness to wellness. He was inspired to take on a new approach, and determined to live a fulfilling, independent life.
What happened next is best described by Janusz himself: “Things really took a major turn for me in 2001, when I began attending an agency called Thresholds as a member. This agency gave me tremendous support in my mental health, as well as many other areas of my life. I finally began to hold down a job with some consistency and stability. I became more hopeful for pursuing college and having my own apartment, and eventually, I did! I gained a sense of community, and I also began to advocate for myself and others in mental health. Also, I continued to get education about my illness and what treatments were available. Finally, I found a medication that works for me and continues to this day.”
Fourteen years later, Jim Janusz is now a Thresholds staff member as a full-time Peer Support Specialist at the New Freedom Center in Thresholds’ Kankakee location. He has also completed training to become a certified Emergency Medical Technician, as well as a Nurse’s Aide. Janusz is passionate about Thresholds’ recovery-based approach to care and member empowerment. “I believe the main key to my recovery is ME. It always has been. Having a sense of individualism, purpose, and personal responsibility are what it’s about” he said, offering hope for those still beginning those challenging first steps toward recovery, “Now I wake up every morning with the freedom of choice to shape my thoughts and behavior in a positive way.”
For more about the services Thresholds provides to empower members to reclaim their lives, visit: www.thresholds.org