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Articles / Majors & Careers / Overcoming The Heavy Stuff and Getting a Chance at Life

June 8, 2021

Overcoming The Heavy Stuff and Getting a Chance at Life

After living with drug-addicted parents, Ester finally found a safe home and a chance to heal

"I say, Ester, look at all the stuff that you've one through and look at where you are now."

Watch the video and real the full transcript below

“Every person in their life deals with some sort of obstacle, whether it's big or small, or it comes at various cycles in their life. And I personally believe that I've had a handful of them and heavy and hard ones to kinda overcome. And I'm grateful and I kind of forget that a lot of times. I say, Ester, look at all the stuff that you've one through and look at where you are now. I think just the idea of dealing with abuse and no longer having that be kind of like having a hold on me being able to recognize that it's there and that it happened but it's not who I'm.

I'm Ester O'Brien, I'm 19 years old and I’ve been born and raised in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

All right, so I have 20 siblings Naomi, Sarah, Danny, Johnny, Joe, David, Elizabeth, Adam, TJ, Stephanie, Anna, Elijah, Jose, Mikey, Malikai, Aaliyah, Alyssa, Kyrran, and Kevin. There we go, I think that's 20, I hope it is. I don't know I might have lost track.”

Can you share a challenge you’ve faced and how it shaped you?

“What I remember from the age of newborn until about eight years old, I was in and out with my biological parents, foster homes and stuff like that. And so I was with my biological brother, David, who's now adopted with me in this home. We were in our initial home with our biological parents, they are both drug addicts, drug dealers. And both of us had dealt with physical abuse and sexual abuse.

And so with that there are a lot of times we missed a lot of school, because we were constantly moving place-to-place and never really staying in one area, because we can afford rent. At one point, we have just settled down at this school district, and I think they noticed my brother and I had, just, would never show up to school.

There'd be like three days a month we'd go to school or something like that and I think the one time they finally caught us both. They just asked us, 'What's up you guys? We never see you. There's something bad going on at home?' And David and I think we're kind of oblivious. I don't think we realize how toxic the environment was, this is what we grew up in. This is what we knew as family. So we're just like, 'Yeah, we get hit all the time.' Like it's normal, like, this is what we do and my parents do drugs, they're drunk all the time. We didn't realize that this was unhealthy and they just kinda sat us down and told us that that's not normal, that's not healthy for a family, and that we were gonna be brought somewhere better.

Then, I think there was, like, four different homes and two before we were officially moved here in 2007 and 2011. I think I was 13 years old when we finally got adopted. So it was, it was a long, crazy ride, but I think from the moment we walked in the house, I definitely felt like I was a part of the family. It was really great and I think that's what David and I ultimately were looking for, we were just looking for someone to tell us that they cared about us. And that we were gonna be in this safe environment and we weren't gonna be moving schools and we were gonna go to school and learn. And we were gonna just ultimately have a chance at life.

Middle school was kind of the beginning of a lot of mental health issues. It took me a long time to kind of accept that it was something I was kind of embarrassed about and I didn't want to share. And I think the more that I talked about it, the more it opens up other people and the more I've had people tell me like look, by us sitting here and sharing your experience with this. You've helped me come to the realization that it’s not something I should be embarrassed about.”

What keeps you motivated?

“Because we had missed so much school at the beginning years of our lives, David and I, we didn't know very much of anything when it came to math, reading, writing any of that. I didn't know how to read. And I think that was one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome, was kind of being in a public school setting and having to sit down and realize that I was so far behind compared to a lot of my peers. And having to learn just very basic math while my other friends were learning multiplication and stuff like that and always having to be taken out of classrooms to sit down and work one on one with someone.

But in the end we ended up doing it. Honestly, I think within a year of me moving in, I was able to be at least slightly below or at my grade level for reading and writing and math and comprehension and stuff like that, which is crazy. But it just shows you that when negativity is subtracted and love and stuff like that is added, all those other things kinda fall into place.

I think a few years ago, I really was able to reflect and realize that a lot of where I am today is because of the elementary school teachers that I worked with individually that helped me overcome a lot of those learning disabilities and a lot of those barriers that I had. Here I am today, finishing with over 3.0 GPA. And just being able to speak is so amazing. And then it's still in the process, but overcoming a lot of the heavy stuff with mental health issues. And how dark that can get, and how dark it was, and how at one point just didn't feel like I had a purpose. And now knowing that there is something greater and every day is a battle, but I have to choose to kinda press on. I've been working on, like, treatment plans and like I'm off all my medications except form like, on. So I'm doing great and it feels good to say that too.”

Want more inspiring videos and real student stories?

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Possible Dreams, Possible Paths

Created through a partnership between educational nonprofit Roadtrip Nation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Possible Dreams, Possible Paths allows students to connect to stories and experiences from their peers, through video interviews centered around topics like mental health, plans beyond high school, social issues, family and responsibilities.

Explore the website for more inspiring, real-life stories and resources for students.

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