From Tragedy to Triumph, Part 2

In the mid-’90s our family got its first computer. Soon I began exploring the Internet for resources and information. It was a great way to get out in the world without leaving my house. During one of my occasional bouts with desperation I began to investigate mental health resources and connected through America Online with an organization that provided online resources and support for people struggling with these issues. It was attractive because it was there when I needed it and not during my pre-allotted time.

We changed Internet service providers. I was able to connect with another online support program, but not for long. With completely selfish motives, I decided I would create my own online support system. I bought books, talked to people on the Internet, and taught myself HTML, Internet development and Web site management. I became familiar with an Internet relay chat program that would suit my purposes.

On Sept. 3, 1997, officially went “online” with one Web page and one chat room. At the time all I wanted was to make a safe place to talk to people dealing with the same issues. I had no idea how well it would be received. In the next two years, we had 12,896 visitors to the Web page. We expanded to include interactive message boards, extensive links to national and international mental health sites, Web pages for supporters of people living with mental health issues, suicide prevention resources, mental health search engines, Java chat links, several awards, and six real-time support rooms. An administrative team of 50 members now facilitates the day-to-day operation.

Through all my despair and all my setbacks, I stored away the feelings of success I had experienced in college. I used these positive memories to help me move forward. If I could learn Algebra, I could learn to read medical journals and make decisions on my own treatment. If I could learn about Western civilization, I could learn about the historical and future trends for managing and treating my medical condition.

If I could go from being a struggling high school student to being an honor student and leader in college, then I could go from someone ruled by my medical condition to someone determined to succeed despite it.

Taking the bit of self-confidence that had given me, I was determined to start over. I realized that starting over meant that I would have to respect the limitations that my health placed on me, but that I could succeed.