I visited Cosby High School Health Science Students in Chesterfield County and presented on a topic no one wants to talk about: mental illness, addiction and suicide.
I told them my personal story about Charles. Actually, I taught two health science classes. Then we did a skit, “How heroin talked to Charles” and one dr Seuss-like poems on drugs and one on resilience. Voice was still awful but had a grand time.
After, these kids decided they wanted to send me letters to say thank you. Their idea. The most heartfelt, touching letters I have ever gotten. This is my video thank you.
I’m so grateful and I sat here for an hour and cried as I read them. A good cry. So many shared personal stories about all those subjects and a level of understanding I didn’t think 15 year olds were capable of.
These students helped me understand their reality in these letters. How many of their friends suffer and struggle. How many of them struggle themselves. How many of their friends or loved ones cut, do substances, and act out in self-destructive ways that is hard to understand.
I will reach out to the students who asked me to. And reply to those who sent me their email.
Thank you to the Cosby students for sharing your souls with me.
Just a few emotionally naked quotes from these letters:
“Most people dehumanize people that lose themselves to substances and the way you expressed your truth helped to ‘re-humanize’ them.”
“…When you mentioned opioids, I thought you were only coming to talk about the opioid concern in this country, but you talked about so much more…I immediately became engrossed in every word you said. Every story and every description of your son’s life as you knew it….For what it is worth, I just really want you to now that your story, your son’s story, had such an impact on my life.”
“I feel that many high schoolers struggle with depression and possibly addiction because of the stress and pressure of school and social difficulties. The expectations of getting good grades for school and scoring well on a test can make teenagers make negative choices to meet the standards.”
“How do you cope with being scare to die, but wanting to at the same time? That’s not even the craziest part. I think the craziest part of it all is the fact that you coming to talk to us changed how I felt. Made me wanna be here a little bit more.”
“Your story touched me in ways I didn’t know was possible.”
“Manic Depression runs in my family and I have seen countless of my family members self medicate because they are ashamed to receive professional help. I sympathize with you and agree that my generation needs to end the stigma of mental illness.”
“I love that your son had a lasting impression. on everyone he met. I hope to leave a lasting impression on people the way your son did. I think it’s amazing that you embrace your son’s death instead of holding it in. I hope you enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed you.”
“I am glad that you talked about how mental illness is a neurological disorder and should be treated as one. I know most people in my family have been effected by mental illness like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and that many times there is stigma around mental illness and it makes me happy that people like you are helping break down stereotypes about people suffering from mental illness.”
“Although what happened was a tragedy, I think it’s a beautiful story. Between the kind of person Charles was, how he helped others, and how his memory lives on through you, it a beautiful story and has inspired me in many ways…..A lot has been going on in my life lately and I often feel lost and hopeless; however, your story changed my outlook on a lot and I can’t thank you enough for that. I will never forget you, Charles. or your journey.”
I will share more of these. I hate to stop here because there is so much wisdom, depth, compassion and intelligence in these letters.
What an amazing gift they are.