April 29, 2019
The following speech was delivered by George L., a Skyland Trail alumni, to the Skyland Trail Financial Aid committee.
"Among other things, my time at Skyland Trail has been an education, not solely about my mental illness but about people. A lot of different people come to Skyland, from a lot of different places, and a lot of different problems—bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, abuse issues, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and much more.
I have often struggled with the idea that my mental illness, bipolar II, is a real and valid illness, which it is. However, I’m inclined to believe that, after spending four and half months at Skyland, people should not be and are not defined by their illnesses. Despite being dealt a bad hand in life, they are strong, intelligent, resilient individuals who battle their illness with great personal strength.
Dealing with mental illness is a difficult battle, a daily struggle. Imagine having a sadness that has no cure, or seeing things you are told are not there, or being violently abused in some way. Maybe you can imagine, or at least relate to some of these things. The world is a difficult place for each of us after all.
Skyland brings together a group of the best and finest young people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I’ll never forget the laughs I’ve had, the stories I’ve heard, and the friends I’ve made here.
I won’t forget the hours I spent around the family room table at Rollins with three incredible young men playing cards and talking about our lives and grappling with our problems.
I won’t forget the days I spent in CAFÉ and CBT groups learning about bipolar disorder and thinking about my thoughts. I won’t forget my primary counselor or my psychiatrist or all their wisdom of the ages.
I won’t forget the outings, the pool games, and the late night conversations about who we are and where we are going.
Skyland Trail was an important step in my personal growth and for that I am truly grateful."