What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?   

Fourteen years ago (this month), I was a full-time welder and single mother without a high school education. I was working 50-60 hours a week at a job that made me miserable but paid the bills. After a long, hard-headed struggle with management that did not love a woman working in a man’s world, I was fired. I cleaned my locker and skipped out of that place singing with joy, literally (they were not happy about that either). I was too stubborn to quit even though I knew it was best to get out of that toxic situation.  

Being fired was an absolute blessing in hindsight. I was immediately happy that I would be able to see my kids more, to be the mom I wanted to be again. But I was also pretty fearful about what life had in store for me next. Having two young children with no financial support was terrifying to say the least. After a week of enjoying my kids and my free time I started working on my general education degree (GED) classes. I achieved my GED in about a month and applied to a university. 

I had learned grit in my past —like becoming a welder so that I could leave my abusive ex, and staying sober after struggling with drug misuse and taking the uphill path at every turn. I knew I had to dig deep, and those hard grit lessons really came into play again. I am a first-generation college student with little outside support. I felt as if I was on a raft with my two children, floating alone in the ocean.  

But I was able to jump through all the fiery hoops that higher education threw at me. Not knowing any better, I took out enough loans to buy a large company, and I studied endlessly. I received my bachelor’s degree in health sciences and I was inducted into an honors society, I achieved a master’s degree in addiction studies and did not stop there. I was accepted into a PhD program, wrote a dissertation and became a doctor. I received a doctorate degree in counseling and psychology in education. I am a ninth-grade high school dropout and people call me DOCTOR! #GEDtoPhD  

I had no idea getting fired would take me to right where I am today, but I am so grateful it did. I am a lecturer at a university. I have dedicated my life to teaching others about stigma, compassion, grit, dedication, addiction, trauma, how to help others and how to be the best version of themselves. My mission is to help people learn to help themselves and others. Cheers to change. 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  

My community! 

 

Based on your experience, how can we work to build resilience in ourselves, our loved ones, and in our communities to better face life’s challenges? 

We have to have support for people who are struggling. No one needs to feel as if they are floating alone in the ocean. We need to have wrap-around services for people in need. We need to strengthen our communities and families by coming together to work for a greater good. We need to find our motivations and follow them. 

 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand? 

I wish people realized the power that is inside them. Passion and grit will take you a long way.