In 2011, after becoming severely ill and entering recovery, I asked a therapist, "Will I be able to return to school and finish my bachelors?" She looked at me with pity and said, "I think you should focus on therapy right now.” I insisted, "Yes, but what about down the line?” She continued to look at me with pity and this time she said, "Look, your condition just won't allow it. You need to focus on getting SSI. You may never work again nor go to school and that is okay.”

I felt so horrible. I then was assigned another therapist and a psychiatrist and I asked them the same question, "Would I ever be able to go back to school?" They both told me “no” and the psychiatrist went as far as telling me, "You are going to have to mourn this loss. Eventually, you will have to let go of this idea. Of this dream. It just isn't for you given your condition.”

I felt so little, so worthless, and I began to process the loss of my dream to go back to school. Therapy offices closed, some therapists moved, and for various reasons I switched therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists and every single time I asked the same question because there was this longing in my heart to go back to school. Each time I was told to forget about it and settle for less.

Against all odds, I entered school again. The first semester was my worst. I had a breakdown and no therapy. When I asked my advisor for help she looked me in the eye and said, "Fill out this form.” I asked, "What is this?" She said, "It's a form to drop out of school. People like you, people with your condition, just can't make it in a highly academic school like this one.” I was so offended but I believed her. I believed all the professionals and I felt like a total failure at that moment.

Crying, I went to my professor and asked him to sign my paper so that I could drop out. That professor saved my life. He chose to believe in me. He said, "Get that paper out of my face. You are going to go to a counselor on campus. You will get accommodations via the disability department and the dean of students. You are one of my best students. I am telling you, you are not allowed to quit.”

It took one person to change my life forever in a positive way. From there on, I learned my rights on disability, I sought help and found an amazing therapist who I’ve been with for almost four years. I found how to study and work with my condition and today, wow! Today (May 24), I accomplished this. Today, I graduated with a Bachelor's in Psychology, Magna Cum Laude, from Stony Brook University. 

My hat represents the struggle with psychosis. The many times I was told I couldn't pursue my dream because of it. The many times I heard voices during an important test. The many times I had a crisis but I had understanding professors who worked with me. It was not easy, but it also was not impossible, as some professionals made it seem.

About my photo: The radio represents the voices I usually hear. I usually hear radio voices rather than one solid voice. I love sharks. Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with sharks and their conservation. I love them. On my graduation cap, the background has sharks in white and grey swimming in blue water. There are gold letters that read, "I did it with psychosis.” There are two colorful boomboxes around it. In the bottom it reads "#endthestigma.”