A Message from the Presenter:
Hello, my name is Grâce Toléqué and I am the designer behind Grace & Angeline Jewelry Studio.
Primarily self-taught, I have been designing jewelry with colored gemstones for over 25 years. Born in Paris (France) and raised in the Central African Republic, I now live in Toronto (Canada) and I am honored to have been designing for local as well as an international clientele.
I design for the woman who is a free-spirit with sophisticated tastes, who believes that jewelry is not merely an ornament but is also a personal talisman. Each piece is designed with the intention to inspire, to heal and to empower.
Thank you Taylor for sharing your story with us.
Taylor Nicole had suspected something was wrong with her from an early age. It wasn’t until she was formerly diagnosed with ADHD at 19, and a few other mental health conditions later, that she was able to see her school years in a new light.
“I realised at a pretty young age that something was off,” Taylor explains. “I think it was when I started being called dramatic. I would go to one class crying hysterically, but then in the next class I was really happy; over the top happy.”
Taylor was born in Orlando, Florida, and had a rocky start, first raised by her grandmother, and when she passed away, her mother took her to live in Connecticut. Shortly afterwards her mother was deemed an unfit parent, and Taylor lived in two foster homes before being adopted at the age of 7. These difficult early years are where Taylor believes most of the early baggage she picked up originated.
None of my childhood therapist seemed to get how much baggage there was for me before the age of 7. It seems bizarre that nobody wanted to talk about that, and I think I would have turned out a lot different if someone took the time to work through that.”
Her adoptive parents were a great support though, and helped her through her childhood.
“ My mother and father…were an amazing support system. They both handled my mood swings and outrageous behaviours well. They supported me in all my endeavours.”
That support proved crucial when she found herself as a child with an undiagnosed mental disorder.
She was unsure of what made her different from the other kids, they certainly weren’t able to make much sense of it either, and it created friction in her life.
“School was really hard. I was constantly paranoid that people thought I was crazy; and truthfully they did.”
Without anyway to define herself, Taylor struggled with the stigma of having a disorder, and not being able to communicate it to others. She was soon isolated and targeted by her classmates, even those she thought of as her friends.
“My friends kinda sucked, and bullied me a lot. I remember one started photoshopping my face onto different things, and spread rumours that I was a “bulldyke” and photoshopped my face onto a bull.”
She managed to make it through elementary school with some difficulty, particularly with forming friendships with other kids around her age.
“I didn’t have a lot of true friends. I realise now I was a lot more focused on quantity over quality. My friends treated me however they wanted, and I’m not sure if that’s because of who they were or who I was.”
Reflecting on her younger years, Taylor is at least grateful that, for all the difficulty she had fitting in, her bright personality acted as a sort of protection.
“In my younger years, I was oblivious to how much I was different…When I was little and when I first met people; I’d ask them if they wanted to hear my life story, and ask if they wanted the long version or the short version. Everyone opted for the short version, but I always gave the long one. I was a talker, for sure. Talking was the only way I coped with how messy my life had been as a child.”
Moving from childhood to her teen years brought a difficult adjustment for Taylor though. In particular, the later years when she going from being a teenager to an adult.
“[The ages of] 16-20 were my worst. I was arrested, got into fights, was admitted into a hospital, all because I had zero control over my emotions.”
Taylor had issues with an abusive relationship, with the two fighting over a number of issues. One morning in particular she awoke from an evening that remains a blank in a memory. Apparently she had attempted to kill herself with an overdose of pills, and her boyfriend told her he wished she had managed to finish the job.
She went to store to replace an aloe plant that had been destroyed the previous evening, and then got a call from her boyfriend telling her he wanted to end their relationship. She rushed home and pleaded with him to stay, in spite of his abuses.
“It was a complete psychotic break,” she explains. “Not even a week before he was hitting me, and cheating on me. There was abuse on both sides, which isn’t easy to admit; back then I wasn’t in control of my emotions, so manic rage was like turning into the Hulk. He abused me in several ways, but his main source of abuse was through manipulating me to thinking I was crazy, and in a sense controlling me through my mental illness.”
The cops were alerted and Taylor was arrested.
“[My ex] was never arrested for the several things he did; and I was for my public psychotic break. I’m not saying that the police were in the wrong; I was a danger to myself at that point. But it did hurt that they were quicker to arrest the ‘crazy girl’ than the guy who had been breaking me down for years prior.”
The arresting officer was quick to notice the distress Taylor was in, and after taking the time to listen to her. Instead of taking her to jail, he instead brought to a mental health hospital where she was on 48 hour hold. She was there for longer than that though, and received her earliest diagnosis of ADHD and bipolar disorder.
“It was the best and worst week of my life,” she remembers. “I was really scared, but it did help for a little. The problem though, was that I wasn’t ready to get help. I wasn’t ready to leave my abuser, I wasn’t ready to stop being manic; however I did stop trying to actively hurt myself for a while.”
She remembers two friends she made during her time in the hospital. Two boys who were also 19, one a Schizophrenic from the Southern US, and a Navy boy from Texas. The trio joked about escape routes from the hospital, and though neither Taylor or her Texan Navy friend were religious, they were calmed by the prayers their religious friend from the south would offer them.
One morning in the common Taylor’s religious friend told the other two that he had lost hope, and that he was going to kill himself as soon as he got out of the hospital. He no longer believed in a god or a tomorrow.
“Navy boy and I sat on either side of him. We weren’t necessarily allowed to touch other patients, but we held him as best we could without having someone yell at us. Navy boy started singing Hallelujah, and it was so out of character for him, and I don’t know, I just started singing along with him. The room fell silent, nobody yelled at us or said anything. But we just held our friend and sang to him, let him cry it out, and that was that. I don’t remember the names of those boys, I don’t know where they are now, but that moment, aside from meeting my son for the first time, was the most magical, beautiful moment of my life. That memory has saved me so many times. I owe my life to those two boys, who got me through that summer.”
Taylor spent a week at the hospital as an inpatient, and then three months as an outpatient.
Afterwards she began the difficult work of reassembling her life, getting rid of the abusive people and getting a roof over her head, she put together a plan to set herself on a better path.
“I kind of just sat myself down…and thought about what was wrong with me. I made a list of what I liked about myself and what I didn’t like; what I didn’t like was much too long. My mother always told me to treat myself like my own best friend. I couldn’t imagine talking to another human, or tearing someone down the way I did to myself. So I started showing myself love. I took care of myself during rough times, and celebrated the good times.”
Though she learned her lesson through an incredibly trying path, she was able to find a way of seeing her life in a more positive light.
“It doesn’t matter anymore what anyone else thinks, because it’s all about what I think. Learning to fall in love with me has been the hardest, but best decision I’ve ever made.”
Taylor’s life has improved dramatically in the last few years. Only 23, she’s now a wife and mother, a life that’s balanced her moods and reinforced the importance of her staying connected to her support system. Because of the support of her family and doctors, she’s found a way to live with her mental illness, and not let it isolate her from the rest of the world.
In spite of the difficult road she’s travelled, she’s managed to keep moving forward, and the darker periods of her life are drifting into the past, while her future seems brighter.
“I think the part about mental illness that’s hard to cope with is that this is a lifetime thing. It’s not going to go away. Some days it’ll be manage able some days not so much. It’s not a perfect science. I really struggle some days. But my crises are further apart, and less severe. And for me that’s a win.”