Resilience Revolution: Jeff Veley's Story
For the past three weeks “Love Changes It All” has been pumping out stories of resilience through radio speakers across the country as well as this online blog. I truly believe that one of the best ways to inspire those who are struggling and even want to give up on life, is by sharing stories of others who faced similar circumstances and overcame.
My story of struggle started in first grade. My first grade year was the year that I realized that I was different than the other kids around me. Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, I was constantly getting redirected in class. I wasn’t any good at sports and the crazy ideas that poured forth from my overactive imagination meant that I had very few friends. The one friend that I did have moved away that year. I felt alone.
While the bullying started in kindergarten it was really just a few isolated incidents. By first grade I stood out for what seemed like all of the wrong reasons and the bullying ramped up to a near daily occurrence and eventually led to being physically assaulted on the playground. Fast forward to third grade, I’ve now started to put on some weight. In addition to the bullying at school my mom started abusing me emotionally and later, physically, at home. I remember running to my room crying on many nights. I hated myself and my life so much that I would slam my head against my bedroom wall as hard as I could.
The story of my difficulty to make friends at school and get along with my mom at home continued for many years. In 6th grade I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and later depression. I didn’t know I was going through abuse at home. I just knew I hated my relationship with my mom and wanted it to get better. I wasn’t yet able to put words to what was happening. The medicine used to treat my A.D.D. made the O.C.D. worse and vice-versa. It seemed that I never felt normal or calm. I would often spend 5-6 hours per night fighting through these disorders in an attempt to finish my homework. I made the Honor Roll time and time again but I had no friends and no social life. It took all that I had to make the grades.
For my freshman year of high school I wasn’t chosen to go to the good school in town Instead I found myself at the second worst school in the inner-city. It was a complete culture shock for me. After sharing my aspirations to become a police officer at a school career day, I found myself on the hit list of a notorius gang. A student in one of my classes was dealing drugs and after a deal went bad while I was in the hallway, he decided it would be best to scare me into keeping quiet. Thankfully the police caught wind of the hit before something bad happened but it wasn’t over. For several months I lived in fear. They knew that there were more gang members at my school that couldn’t yet be identified. No longer was I permitted to walk the two blocks home from school. Going to classes now required an escort for my safety. That year I was chased through the school, assaulted until I was black and blue, and jumped on my way home. The environment was Hell on steroids.
By the age of 16 I had failed the 10th grade. I didn’t feel like I mattered much and I couldn’t care less about school. Instead I invested my time into performing music, magic, and theater. It was only in these things that I felt alive, or useful. That year my father died following a freak accident. After a concert he, a guitar player, fell off of the back of a stage and shattered his ankle. Though he couldn’t walk for weeks three doctors neglected to check or treat him for blood clot prevention. His life was lost due this oversight with what the hospital called their largest blood clot case on record.
After losing my dad, my life spun out of control. My mom and I constantly fought. My mentor and protector at home was gone and I lost an important voice of guidance. One day in my social studies class everything changed. While daydreaming (as usual) I tried hard to remember my dad’s last words to me the night before he died. They were “Son, I know you have a school project due at the end of the week. Don’t visit me to tomorrow. Instead, work hard on it. Make me proud”.
All of a sudden my life had meaning. I had something to live for and aim for. My job was to make my dad proud and love others like he did. My F’s turned into A’s and B’s. I later homeschooled myself to finish high school and work a job simultaneously to pay my math tutor (I never was any good at algebra). I left my mom’s house in an effort to save myself and disconnect from the relationship. As a result I faced homelessness. Thanks to my grandparents I never had to spend a night on the street. They later let me move in. I got right with God, solved my anger issues, and later my mother and I worked hard and fixed our relationship. It’s probably the coolest 180 story I know. By age 18 I started reaching out to at-risk kids like me and made it my goal to reach as many as possible. Today, at 29, that goal hasn’t changed.
My name is Jeff Veley and I live to help kids like me.