Madison has had suicidal thoughts and considered self-harm.
She said she is taking steps to get help. She just needs someone to talk to about her struggles and have them listen, care and show compassion.
That’s what she recently found while attending a Your Life Speaks convocation and hearing Nathan Harmon share his story of overcoming various struggles in life.
The program at Seymour High School made such an impact that Madison made sure to attend the convocation for the public a few days later.
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“I came back because what he talks about is relatable,” she said. “I’ve had similar struggles, and the last time that we talked, he came and he basically told me he was proud of me because as he talked about suicide and stuff, I’ve had scares and attempts.”
She said it just helped to hear Harmon’s story.
“The way he talks to you, he makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room and you actually matter, and that’s difficult,” she said. “There’s music and stuff that can make you feel like that, but he does that. It felt like we were having a conversation, and we weren’t.”
Madison said she’s ready to turn her life around and erase suicidal thoughts from her mind. She knows Harmon will be there for her.
“Now that I’m going to follow his journey on social media and the fact that I’ll be able to talk to him one-on-one … I feel like I have a friend there who won’t judge me regardless,” she said. “He won’t judge me no matter what happens and how I feel.”
The school’s Jobs for America’s Graduates program obtained sponsors to bring Harmon and his message to Seymour. It went along with Indiana JAG’s community service initiative of bullying and suicide prevention.
The students not only wanted the entire school to hear Harmon’s message, they wanted the community to hear it, too. In March, he will come back for programs at Seymour Middle School and the Sixth Grade Center.
Harmon already has been to more than 50 Indiana schools this school year and plans to top 100 — including some out of state — by next spring.
Growing up, Harmon said he lived a good life, idolized his older sister and made straight A’s in school.
When he was 12 and his parents got a divorce, though, he said he felt betrayed and lied to and was angry and upset at them.
As time went on, he said he began to bury that frustration and hurt. He wanted to fit in with the crowd and started compromising who he was.
As a freshman in high school, he made good grades in school and was on a mission to become something special, he said.
By his senior year, however, he said he was a “full-blown alcoholic” and a “full-blown pothead,” skipped 67 days of school and made straight F’s. He wound up not graduating from high school.
“Pot, coke, pills, alcohol, synthetic heroin — you name it, I was doing it my senior year,” Harmon said. “I began ‘feeding the bear.'”
In 2005, he said he joined the U.S. Army not because he wanted to but because he had to.
While serving, though, he went AWOL twice because he failed drug screenings and ended up getting kicked out of the Army.
A fellow solider planned to return to his home country of Colombia and talked Harmon into going with him.
On the way there, in Atlanta, Georgia, Harmon was arrested, which he said was a good thing.
“I was hurting, and I was angry, and I was a drug addict, and I was making terrible choices,” he said.
At 21, while living with his grandfather, he stole money from him and was charged with 34 felonies.
A lot of those charges were dropped, but he said that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
“I never got what I deserved,” he said. “I was always getting out of trouble.”
He then lived with a friend for a couple of years.
On July 17, 2009, he said his life changed forever. After he drank beer at a bar, a designated driver, Priscilla Owens, came to pick him up but for some reason chose to give him the keys to the Jeep.
Harmon crashed the vehicle into a tree, sending both of them to the hospital. Owens suffered a broken neck and died the next morning.
At 23, Harmon was responsible for someone’s death.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Even though he didn’t serve his full term, it was during that time he finally was able to turn his life around.
For several years, he said he used his parents’ divorce as his reason to act up and not take responsibility for his bad choices.
In prison, though, he said he had a moment of clarity when he realized his parents didn’t put the beer bottle to his lips and put him behind the wheel of the car and as a result kill someone. They also didn’t cause him to fail out of school.
“I had to stop blaming everybody else because at the end of the day, nobody controls my actions,” he said. “This was my fault for making bad choices. I began to own it and say, ‘You know what? Yep, you screwed up in the past.'”
He said people in his hometown and family expected him to go back to being “Nasty Nate” and wanted to call him out on his past.
While they had every reason not to believe he had changed, he said he couldn’t let the naysayers deter him.
“I learned something … I’m going to make good choices, and good decisions open up amazing doors and give amazing opportunities,” Harmon said. “I decided, ‘You know what? I’m going to make so many good choices and good decisions … over and over again, my life will speak for itself.’ Life speaks, it screams and it shouts.”
While in prison, Harmon said he was able to find the faith element in his life, and Priscilla’s parents forgave him.
Once God proved himself to Harmon, he said he was able to chase after his dreams and goals.
He made a promotional video and sent copies around the state hoping to share his message at schools.
The first one that reached out changed his life, he said.
“That one video started all of this,” he said of Your Life Speaks.
Since then, he has been able to stay focused and not go back to his old ways.
“Refuse to lose the passion. Refuse to be and settle for mediocrity,” he said. “Just as much as you want to and desire to change and just as much as you have that same passion of being determined to change, you’ve got to have the same passion to be disciplined, focused and self-controlled.”
Keeping the three D’s in life — desire, determination and discipline — and staying away from another D — distractions — will keep you focused on your goals and make you successful, Harmon said.
“Good choices will always have good results,” he said. “When you make good choices and good decisions and you genuinely think about your actions, you don’t go off of emotions. Maybe you are in a bad spot, feel like people don’t understand you, you’re struggling, going through stuff. We need to understand something — no matter where you’re at in life, good choices can change your circumstance.
“Maybe you’re ready to change and be different,” he said. “You basically left who you used to be, you came to this convocation, you landed on this island, and on this island, you decided you wanted to be different. … You’ve got to be willing to burn the very boat that got you on the island. There’s no going back. You’re committed to changing. There is no option of going back to who you used to be.”
Harmon also stresses the importance of people believing they are valuable and important and not comparing themselves to others.
“Comparison will rob you of joy,” he said. “Stop comparing yourself because you’re you and you’re unique, and comparing yourself will only rob you of who you are. You really are beautiful. You really are special. You really are gifted. You really are talented. Your life really is made to speak, to scream and to shout, and you don’t need the approval of any other person.
“All you need to do is be willing to burn the boat and go out and be who you are born to be with everything inside of you,” he said. “I dare you to do it.”
Madison said she already has a tattoo related to the struggles she has faced in life. After attending two of Harmon’s convocations, she said her next tattoo is going to be “Burn the boat.”
“Because he kept talking about that and changing and not going back to who I was,” she said.
Senior Adrianna Brooks said while she has never had suicidal thoughts, she now knows how to help someone who is going through the struggle thanks to Harmon’s program.
“I would let them know that I’m here,” she said. “I want to help people, and I just want people to know that I’m here to talk to them and they can talk to me about whatever they want.”
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For information about Nathan Harmon and his Your Life Speaks program, visit yourlifespeaks.org.