Sharing Our Story – Jade George
I would consider my childhood to be good. My parents were together for 16 years of my life. I always had a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in. Sure, there were times that I lived in the hood hoping for a meal. But overall, my mother and father made sure to show me love and made sure I had everything I needed. Then things stared to change. Hurricane Katrina hit my home as soon as I got my Bratz themed room. My room, my family, my life, was torn from my fingertips with one storm. We evacuated to my aunt’s house in Atlanta, and later moved to Texas for two years. I had my life in New Orleans but Hurricane Katrina took that from me and nothing was ever the same. My family started to fall apart.
My parents no longer wanted to be together. They yelled and fought and I was there to make sure at the end of the day I had two parents. After years of bickering and pretending like everything was okay, they separated and later, divorced. Being the oldest child, it felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders because I was there to make sure my siblings did not see their fighting. I did not want others knowing that my family was not perfect or that we had some major issues going on behind closed doors. So I put on a mask for the public to see because inside, I was full of tears.
My mom moved into her own house and my dad kept the house that held all the secrets to our torn family. It was a shock to each family member in the changes that came. Particularly, my mother did not handle the separation well. She even tried to take her own life twice, and I was there both times. That took a toll on my emotional wellbeing, considering I felt the need to protect her at all times. But how can a teenager protect their mom from themselves? Now my dad has some mental issues and undealt with trauma that I did not realize how much it affected me, until a couple of years ago. While people were going to pool parties, I was negotiating who should get the kids and for how long. This made me feel like I had to grow up fast and take care of my siblings and my parents. With that being said, that was a lot of weight on my shoulders. But over time, my mom and dad have separately moved on with their lives. Currently, my parents can fight their own battles, even though since they are not together, there are not many battles to begin with.
My mother received help, and she got remarried. My dad got into a relationship and had another child. They are both in their own paths and versions of their recovery. All of the past trauma affected me though, as resilient as I am. I was not immune to the things I heard and saw as a kid. I ended up with major depression during my teenage years. I grew an eating disorders and I hung out with the wrong people. It was not the brightest time for me. I did not want to get out of bed; I hated going to school. I skipped my extra curriculum activities. I went out attempting to not come home for days. I even attempted to take my life. I felt ashamed, worthless, and most of all empty. By day, I had my pack of mask to cover my emotions until I got home, and let the anger and sadness wash over me. Overall, it was not pretty. One of my parents decided it was time I “stop playing around”, like mental illness work like that. I was forced in recovery in a way that I did not want to participate. Did I want to do it: no. Was it what I needed: yes. I now understand having someone to talk to changed my life.
I ended up growing up and moving to Mississippi for college; I have been here ever since. From that stage, I actively sought out professionals to talk to. I went to school for psychology to help others have someone to talk to when they felt alone. Because when I was in that situation, if someone was to ask me, “what is going on” or “how do you feel,” then maybe things would have been different. I wished I had a peer to say ‘I understand what you’re going through’ and mean it. I would have started treatment and recovery sooner than later.
My purpose has been built through my resilience and challenges. I no longer shy away from challenges because it is another way to help me grow. I love being a peer support because I am a friendly face with a past that could be similar to others. My experience is my connection and reach to others. I am inspired to asked the questions, “what happened,” “what’s on going on,” and “how are you feeling.” Since I did not have one in my teenage years, I vow to be THE advocate for others.