Tyrell Bird spent most of his teenage years dealing with anxiety so severe that he couldn’t leave his house.
Now the 19-year-old Winnipegger works as an educational assistant, helping other young people dealing with the type of anxiety that left him feeling as though he would never get better and forced him to quit school.
He has even started telling students his personal story.
“I’m hoping to shed light and give hope to others living with similar anxieties,” he told CBC News.
Bird was 13 when the stresses he was facing in life brought on debilitating anxiety.
His grandmother was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, his parents split up and his dad left, the nephew he helped raise was taken from the family and his sister tried to commit suicide.
It all piled up, and Bird felt really alone.
He dropped out of school multiple times, but a promise he made to his grandmother eventually helped him get back to class.
“Just before she died, I told her that I wanted to finish school,” he said.
“I just kept at it because part of me felt like I was letting her down and I didn’t want to do that.”
During the years he spent in his bedroom, creativity kept Bird’s spirits up — he created a YouTube channel and wrote poetry — but he didn’t think anyone would ever see his work.
That all changed when he tried going back to school one final time.
He enrolled at Pembina Trails Alternative High School, which lets students work in small group settings with two teachers and educational assistant support.
“It was a bit scary at first because I wasn’t used to being around anyone — being locked in your room for three years does that to you, I guess — but I always felt comfortable around the teachers,” he said. “The teachers made it so easy to be there and they were so understanding of my anxieties.
“It felt more like a friendship than being around teachers.”
His English teacher read Bird’s poetry and with the teacher’s encouragement, Bird published a book of his poems and artwork.
He also graduated, keeping his promise to his grandmother.
“That was pretty amazing. It felt great,” he said.
“I feel like she would give me a big hug and the biggest smile.”
After getting out of school, Bird started volunteering at École R.H.G. Bonnycastle School, and his references from staff there helped him land the educational assistant job he now has at Dalhousie School.
Bird loves his job and now he plans to get an arts degree so he can become an English teacher.
He wants others facing anxiety to know it will get better.
“Take every bit of help you can from everyone,” he said. “Just speaking about it and taking that extra step every day to work toward bettering yourself.
“It’s not going to be an easy road — you’re going to get frustrated at times — but you will succeed eventually.”
Published at Mon, 18 Jun 2018 09:57:07 -0400