Unbreakable. In the six minutes of a single wrestling match, a wrestler exerts more energy than a

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1 Ethan Claus I am a current resident under Humanim living in the TAY program. I am a mental health advocate and an aspiring psychologist who dreams of ending mental health stigma, bettering mental health facilities across the globe and guiding adolescents with mental illnesses through their personal wars using my own experience. I am a strong writer, a sports fanatic and I will be attending Howard Community College in the fall to major in Psychology in the fall I plan to transfer to Towson, UMBC or John Hopkins after two years. I hope to one day achieve a doctorate s degree in psychology and become a social worker, psychologist or counselor for adolescents as well as continuing as a mental health advocate. I want to thank my mother and my father for everything they have done for me despite all the crap I have put them through and I want them to know I love them both so very much they are the most important people in my life and always have and will be. Thanks, mom and dad.

2 Unbreakable I am the captain of my fate. I am the master of my soul. From the book and movie, Invictus In the six minutes of a single wrestling match, a wrestler exerts more energy than a basketball player does in a full four quarter game of professional basketball. It takes commitment to be a wrestler. Workout after workout. Beating after beating. Day after day. Endurance and perseverance. There s a reason why so many people call wrestling a mental sport it takes not only everything you have physically within you to succeed within the sport but it challenges how much you want the end result, how much you re willing to suffer through to win, and it takes on every aspect of the mind. It calls upon strength from pain and this is what drives the great. I was born several months premature to a teenage mother very sick with toxemia. I was extremely sick at the time of birth as well and had to be put in an incubator for the first two months of my life. For the first two years of my life I received severe surgeries and procedures that if had not occurred, I would not be here today. Around the age of seven, I developed post-traumatic stress disorder from this, having nightmares and screaming, waking up yelling about men in whitecoats. By the age of five I was diagnosed with ADHD and started therapy and medication. After five years of complete hell, one would think one would get a break. But I developed reactive attachment

3 disorder from a nightmarish start to my life a rare disorder found in people who are abused, neglected or abandoned at birth. This disorder makes it extremely difficult for me to get along with my adoptive parents the two people in my life who still to this day go to the ends of the world for me to support me in any way they can. The two people in the entire world that mean the most to me all I did for the next thirteen years after the age of five was throw crap in their faces. I stole money from them just to get snack food, threw angry outbursts and rages and explosions, punched holes in walls and ripped doors off hinges. I felt helpless. Simply helpless, just like I probably felt like when I was a baby. Totally out of control of the situation, unable to stop hurting the people I loved. I invested so much time trying to get on the right track. I called the cops on myself two times when I felt suicidal, was hospitalized twelve times, and tried to absorb as much information and learn as much as I could from the day hospitals and treatment and therapy I got. I have been on over twenty different mood stabilizers. I have gone through twenty different therapists. At the age of twelve I was diagnosed with bipolar, anxiety and depression. Dark, deep hatred of myself started to sink in around that age as well. Animosity of the fact that I just couldn t get it together. I didn t know why. I didn t understand. At night I would cry myself to sleep sometimes, at times punching the walls until my knuckles were bloody and red, trying to get whatever demons that were inside of me out. But when I was on the wrestling mat, I was at home. The ring was one place I could control myself. One place I could take my emotions out in a healthy way, one place where all the mental endurance it took to stand up every time I fell even though I thought it was for naught had a purpose.

4 Around the age of fifteen, I had an epiphany. I remember looking at myself in the bathroom mirror after taking a hot shower, tears welling in my eyes because I had just lost control of my anger once again. I remember looking at myself in the mirror, looking at the water drip from my wet skater hair, tears dripping to the floor. But it wasn t a pained kid I saw in the mirror like I always saw. For the first time in my life, I saw a kid with his head held up. I saw a strong, fearless kid who wasn t afraid to let his emotions show. I saw a kid who had been through so much but yet was still standing. I no longer saw the monster I always pictured in the mirror. Instead, I saw a warrior. A survivor. And I swore to myself at that moment just like I swore to myself every time I stepped onto the wrestling mat that I would never give up. I would never give in. I would endure. I realized I am the captain of my fate, and I am the master of my soul. I finally understood that the only way I could fail was if I gave up, if I gave in. I looked closely in the mirror and I saw the positive things about me. I saw my altruism. I saw my intelligence. At that moment, I not just wanted to be a psychologist or a social worker, I hungered for it. To this day it is still my dream, my passion, and my purpose to guide and help as many people as I can in the mental health field using my past experiences. I turned my pain into something to gain. I turned it into strength, into courage, into meaning. After being diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, autism and oppositional defiant disorder, I had three more rough years up until the age of eighteen. But in those three years, which were probably the toughest three years of my life, I felt inspired. I felt untouchable. Unbreakable. I got low, very low at times. I was hospitalized several times during these three years, and my angry rages turned more violent and

5 scary. I have never hit any of my family members I d always had a sense of control when having an angry rage to be able to stop myself from any kind of physical violence but the verbal aggression and probabilities of me eventually accidentally hurting someone I loved was very high in those three years. Then, in the early months of 2015, I was accepted into the TAY program under Humanim. Getting me in there had been a long, grueling task for my mother and my father. They d spent months upon months gathering paperwork, calling social security and other people to get me into the program I am now living in. Separation. It was the best thing for both of us, even though we both know we d rather be together. But even though it was quite a rough transition to living on my own at first I believe they finally found me peace. At this moment in my life, as I am writing this, I am the in the most stabilized state I have ever been in my entire life. I m not on any different medications I haven t taken in the past, and I currently do not even have a therapist yet. But this shows me and tells me how little control I truly had at home. How big a role reactive attachment disorder had truly played at home. That I was never a monster. Just like my mother was taught and told me once, my reactive attachment disorder was like something hardwired into my brain. It was like fight or flight an impenetrable defensive mechanism inside of me that explained why I had so much difficulty when I felt like I had no control over myself, my life or my emotions. But now that I m living on my own, I am the captain of my fate, I am the master of my soul. I am in control. And now I understand what defines me is not my past mistakes. What defines me is not my past pain and my diagnoses and failures. What defines me is how many times I stood up when I fell down. What defines

6 me is the life I will and now lead. What defines me is the person I choose to create, the person I have control over. I look at my past, all the pain, the nights I curled up into a fetal position, unable to sleep, fearing the dawn of the next day. Fearing especially me. But now, I realize I have nothing to fear. I will endure. I won t fade away. Just like a wrestler, I will fight until my last breath. I will keep standing up when taken down, keep attacking even when my legs are burning. I will grind and grind, sprawl after sprawl, shot after shot. Again and again. Even when my mind is exhausted, I will never relent. I will survive. Because I am unbreakable. I will have lows, and I will have bad experiences. But I know in my heart that my fire will always burn bright. I will never lose my flames, and on my path in life I hope I will be able to kindle a fire like mine in as many others as I can. I may be diagnosed with nine mental illnesses. But I am not a monster. I am a fighter. And I will wrestle until the end. - Ethan Claus

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