Rory: You mentioned it affecting your school. Did you graduate eventually?
Laurel: I did, yeah. So it started affecting me as soon as I hit puberty in 5th grade, and then I started to struggle in 6th grade with attendance, but I was able to get through the year. Just missed a few homework assignments and some stuff like that, missed quite a few days of school. But I also went to Shodair that year, so they kind of cut me some slack and let me go on to middle school.
And then in middle school, I basically attended half of 7th grade overall and then barely any of 8th grade, but I still passed through middle school just because they were like, “Well, your grades up until this point were really good, so we’re just gonna let you go on to high school, and hopefully you can figure out how to get through high school.”
And then when I got into my freshman year, I went for the first couple weeks, maybe the first month. And I was trying really hard. I wanted it to be better. But I hadn’t treated any of my issues really. It was kind of just like I was getting slapped with different diagnoses and different pills to take, and none of it really helped me, and therapy wasn’t really effective for me at that point either. I didn’t know what was wrong, and I didn’t know what was going on.
School just became more and more of a struggle as I missed more of it because I felt like I was falling behind from my peers, and I didn’t ever feel like I could do the homework once I got home from school. It was always like… I had this horrible gut feeling where I was like, “I can’t sit down and do this.”
Oh, I was also diagnosed with ADHD, I forgot about that.
Rory: When was that?
Laurel: That was actually my first diagnosis, when I was 7 or 8. I was on pills for that for, like, 5 years. But I stopped taking all my pills around the time I went into my freshman year of high school, and I, uh… I never felt like they helped me when I was that age. Because I was always just like, “I don’t know why I’m taking these when I don’t feel like they’re helping me.”
Yeah, so I ended up dropping out of freshman year after, like, a month, and then I didn’t go back to school until I was 16. At the end of my sophomore year, I started going to an alternative school. For my entire junior year, I was working on building up attendance, and by the end of my junior year, I was attending school every day at the alternative school, getting my homework done. I think I got the amount of credits that was equivalent to a freshman or a sophomore–I think I got up to the amount of credits that was equivalent to the beginning of a junior year, in that year that I was in school.
Rory: All in that year?
Laurel: All in one year, yeah. And then the next year, by the time I was in my last year of school, when I was 17, I had to get everything… I wanted to get my entire school done so that I could graduate on time with everyone I went to school with as a kid. So I ended up being able to get all of my work done in two years at the alternative school, and I graduated from the alternative school when I was 18.
Rory: That’s impressive!
Laurel: Thank you. (laughs) I’m very proud of myself for that.
Rory: Yeah, you should be proud.
Laurel: Thank you. And I gave a speech at my graduation.
Rory: Oh dang! What was the speech about?
Laurel: It was pretty much everything that I just told you–the fact that I struggled with school for, like, 6 years and then finally found the alternative school, and it was what I needed all along. And the teachers were amazing, and the environment was incredible, and they’re the reason why I was graduating and being able to move forward with my life.
Rory: Yeah, there’s definitely a stigma around alternative schools, that they’re for troublemakers…
Laurel: … pregnant teens…
Rory: … “issue kids”…
Laurel: … delinquents, yeah. That’s not the case at all.
Rory: Yeah. Sometimes it’s just the different accommodations that someone needs that the conventional school can’t give.
Laurel: Yeah, exactly.
Rory: I almost went to an alternative school too, when I had to leave the high school here.
Laurel: I am so glad that I did. I mean, my parents basically had to drag me in there. To even go through the doors was a struggle for me. But when I did, I knew it was different.
To be continued…