Growing up, Nichole and her family knew she was different; something just seemed “off.” But she wouldn’t get diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder until she was 20 years old. As a young child, she assumed everyone was having a similar inner experience to hers, so she didn’t even think to ask for help. Her parents didn’t understand how much was going on in her brain. During a manic episode, Nichole left home and moved in with a boy several hours away. When the mania subsided, she found herself in the deepest depression of her life. She took herself to the hospital many times, and was turned away every time before finally getting admitted for attempting suicide and being taken home by her parents.
Laura Messner grew up in a typical home until her parents divorced when she was eight years old. After she became aware of how little she got to see her father, she began chasing after perfection in every way she could think of to “earn” his attention… until she developed an eating disorder and eventually attempted suicide. She came to learn self-love and to take responsibility for her own pain and healing journey. As a teenager, she resisted help because she was unwilling to admit that everything inside was not perfect. It wasn’t until her late twenties that she came to understand that her struggles stemmed from the pain she felt from seeing herself as a victim of her father’s abandonment.
Tammy Ozolins is an extraordinary teacher. She returns to tell us of how teachers face an uphill battle in the field, boots on the ground, in the daunting challenge of helping teens who suffer with mental illness. She chooses to highlight the importance of being a friend to a student rather than a disciplinarian. In one instance, this technique resulted in a 6th grade student confiding to her years later, that her support drove him to not only graduate, but to join the marine corps with pride in who he was and what he became.