Heather has faced adversity from the very beginning of her life, but I felt nothing but warmth and optimism from her as she shared her story with me. She shared her passion for art, her love for her family and her cat, and her gratitude to those who have helped her to feel supported and full of purpose. I can’t wait to see where she goes:
Life is full of surprises. The surprises in my life started early. My biological parents unfortunately had many problems with mental health issues and drug addiction. The state removed my sibling and me from their home when I was 3 months old.
We were placed in a crowded foster home with a foster father who was later imprisoned due to abuse allegations. My sister Kate, brother Zachary and I stayed there for one year.
Then Kate and I were placed with an adoptive family. There were two older siblings in the home, Kevin and Katie. We soon became a close-knit group; I was a very beloved baby sister.
As I grew, it was discovered I had learning disabilities. Fortunately, the elementary school I attended was very good about providing the services I needed to have a wonderful, successful experience while I was there.
Our neighborhood was full of children. It was a place where we could play in each other’s homes or yards. I had many friends, mostly boys because I always enjoyed being very active. My best friend lived in a house right behind ours and we had a short cut to get back and forth. It was an ideal childhood, kind of like one from an old TV show.
Then came middle school. I struggled in the new environment. I was not included in activities, sat alone at lunch and was teased by many people. My old friends drifted away and I was often alone. This is when depression started being a problem for me. I was not just sad, I had a hard time seeing the point of doing anything, including schoolwork, and that caused more problems at school and home.
The only thing I really liked at school was art class. I found I had some talent, and my teacher created a safe, welcoming spot for me in that classroom. Another thing that helped me get through that difficult time was my cat, Nomar Garcia kitty. He was my best friend. My sisters said we were so close, it was like we shared the same brain. From the time I got home from school, he would greet me at the door and then stayed by my side until I had to leave again.
Despite the administration and staff not understanding me or helping me with my struggles, with the exception of two teachers, I graduated from high school. I have always felt proud that, despite everything, I earned that diploma.
After graduation I became involved with a job coach through Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Within a few months I had started my first job in a retail business. As time went on I began having problems again with being bullied. This upset me greatly and affected my work. After a year I left the job and went to a different retail business. It became a pattern. I would start a new job and once people got to know me and my “differences” the bullying would start again. By the time I started my fourth job I was fragile.
When things at work started getting difficult, I just could not cope. It resulted in me being hospitalized for an extended period due to depression and anxiety. Not anything I had ever planned for, but it might have been a blessing in disguise. After being hospitalized I realized I needed more help and support services. My family has always loved and supported me, but it was time for extra help.
That was when I applied for a membership at the Genesis Club. It has been a wonderful place for me. I have been given responsibilities like meal preparations and Peer Outreach.
Recently I have begun putting more effort into building social relationships and that has helped with my feelings of loneliness. My confidence in handling everyday situations is also growing and it’s a positive thing for me.
I can now see a real future for myself. That will include independent living, friendships, stability, opportunities to pursue my interests in cooking and art, and of course my wonderful cat, Calypso, whose constant love is heartwarming.
If you would like to share how you are more than your depression, grief, bipolar disorder, addiction, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorder or OCD please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a Writing Guide.
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