In the summer of 2005, after my freshman year of high school, I was diagnosed with Psychosis NOS, an umbrella diagnosis often given when a psychological problem, psychotic in nature, occurs but fits no specific criteria. In August of 2013, I graduated with an AB in Psychology from Georgetown University. The road was very long and quite tough since my first diagnosis of Psychosis NOS, but victory through that struggle has been extraordinarily sweet.
Much of my college academic career was spent in learning and understanding Psychology. Psychology had become my passion for more than the obvious reasons. However, my first educational goal in college was to go to medical school and become a Child Psychiatrist. My most passionate goal in life at that time period was to share the miracle of strength and victory with other children in similar circumstances to overcome their own seemingly impossible obstacles by becoming a health-care provider myself.
I began my studies at St. John’s University in Queens, NY but left in hopes of finding another challenging university setting that also had a medical school and other health career opportunities farther from home. At the time I wanted to develop my own independence as well as expand my interest science. However, the transition to Georgetown University in Washington, DC proved to be very difficult and much of my academic life was affected, most particularly my GPA. With the exception of a few outside friendships, the social group of friends I chose to be closest to at the time had also hindered my growth as a student and as person. They could not comprehend the extra difficulties I faced in the aftermath of my diagnosis in the years I was on an Antipsychotic medication and therapy. My problems with emotion regulation, the extended amount of time I needed to complete homework, the lack of full support from close family and friends due to distance from home, and the withdrawal, stigma, and isolation I felt from a few of the closest ones, were just the tip of the issues I faced at Georgetown University. I withdrew from the Spring Semester of 2011 and took a Medical Leave-of-Absence in the Fall Semester of 2012. Upon my return, I worked toward an upward trend in my grades.
Through a series of experiences during and after my time off, however, I was able gain a strong grasp of who I was and what my purpose in life was. I let go of my Pre-medicine concentration and my dreams of attending medical school. I decided to focus on my Psychology major and take up an Art Minor, a subject that I have much experience in and enjoy. During my time at Georgetown, I was a Toy Demonstrator at F.A.O. Schwarz NYC, a Discovery Room Volunteer at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, a mentor for youth in the DC Court System with the After School Kids Program, and a Facilitator with the Kids 2 College Program within the Myers Institute for College Preparation.
I also let go of the grasp my social circle had on me. I had decided to take my own route to happiness and success. With my own connection to God and the realization of my own strengths, I was able “turn a trial into a testimony.” I learned that although I struggled and that life can take unexpected turns, it is through my trials and struggles that I gain an even greater sense of my strength and who I am. My years at Georgetown had been the most rich, the most formative, and the most rewarding. My many experiences, especially in working with youth who faced multiple barriers to their achievement, as well as meeting the right people, enabled me to find an important connection with children who are especially struggling. I once again took a different route and ultimately chose to pursue Elementary and Childhood Special Education. I wanted to share my deep understanding of what it means to succeed even when you are struggling more than those around you. I let go of wanting to help kids through their problems, and embraced a way to tap into a child’s resiliency in the midst of his or her problems through the tool of education.
In times of struggle, I think my character says it all. Whether I’m in the midst of a serious mental illness, or facing the often underestimated problems of college life, I’ve seemed to have always known how to pick up on my strengths and adapt. If we only focus on our problems and all the negatives in our lives we will never see beyond those problems and negatives. We remain stuck in our problems trying to find a solution that, though attacks different angles of the problem, does not hit at its source. How we pick up ourselves, stand up against, and solve our problems often lies within our own strengths and motivation. I adapted to an adverse situation by adjusting my mindset to focus more on my positive attributes, letting go of the negative influences in my life, and acquiring the will-power and strength to never give up and achieve my goals. My adaptation to take initiative in my life and overcome my struggles with mental illness and beyond enabled me to achieve an incredibly successful feat and in my case move beyond what my perceived capacities were. In light of my optimism, in the midst of my circumstances, I was able to gain back my sense of reality, both in illness and in life, and understand what the reality of victory really means.
This Fall, I began working toward my Master’s Degree in Elementary Inclusive Education and Teaching Students with Disabilities at the Teacher’s College Graduate School of Education at Columbia University.