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RAISE - Ryan video transcript

Ryan: Hi, my name is Ryan. I'm 34 years old. I work full time as a civil rights advocate for individuals with mental disabilities in a state psychiatric hospital. I recently graduated with a master's degree. I happen to drive a nice automobile. I'm single and enjoy dating. And I'm also in recovery from a form of schizophrenia.

Today I'd like to talk to you about how I returned to school. This is the picture of me when I showed up on the first day of classes to have my student I.D. taken. I'm overweight, disheveled, poorly groomed and the thing that strikes me most about this picture is in my eyes, I can see I can feel what it was like back then. I can see the hopelessness, sort of despair in the picture. I definitely wasn¹t happy. On many days I sort of wished that life would just go away, that I were dead. It was too painful.

Well, one of my main fears was that I would be never able to work, just the possibility of going to school is it futile being a person with a major mental disorder to actually go through this process of going back to school. But, I made the decision that I was going to go and study what I wanted to study and pursue my own education and actually to pursue knowledge for knowledge's sake, despite the fact that I believe that I couldn't work. In the midst of that seven years that I was in college, I was hospitalized at my most ill moment. I had teachers that were very supportive and allowed me to make up the work. I was able to take incompletes for those semesters. And the support of my family, friends and my professors were almost enough when I was hospitalized to allow me to believe that that wasn't the end of the road.

The stress of school never put me in the hospital. I'd say the stress of believing I couldn't achieve at school, because I'm a person with a mental illness, probably was more stressing to me than the stress of finals, final papers and things like that. I didn't think I was able to work and so I didn't, it was sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. After I finished my bachelor's degree, I worked successfully for a year before I started a master's program and I actually completed the master's program in two and a half years, which was the standard time as opposed to the length, the extra length it took for me to finish the bachelor's degree. And, I worked full-time and went to school full-time at the master's level and completed that in a timely fashion.

From my experience, I guess I would encourage anyone to go back to school who's thinking about it. It's such a crucial aspect of my recovery that I think education can be an arena where anyone can sort of discover who they are discover what they're passionate about. And, I'd say, like through the process of education we sort of become more ourselves by learning what we're able to do. I guess I didn't know who or what I could be until I started learning exactly what I could do in the world and doing it.