My freshman year of college one of my friends overdosed on heroin. You understand that people die when you're in high school, but you don't really understand the depth of it. We went to all the same schools growing up, even high school, so I was pretty close to him and his family. But then, he stayed in state to go to college and I went out of state, so I was kind of removed from everybody when it happened. It didn't really impact me for a while. I think when I got the phone call the morning after, my response was, "that's terrible, but you shouldn't do heroin." It was very cold and I didn't even come home for the funeral. But then I noticed other friends that really seemed lost. I'd seen them go through Katrina and some lost their entire homes and they seemed to have a lot of resilience then. But they were really lost after this happened. That really brought it home for me.

I didn’t realize the degrees of magnitude of difference of Hurricane Katrina from past storms at the time, or how long it would take to come back. Or the consequences of breaking up families for a period of time, taking people out of school and throwing them in different schools...the effect it had on 12-18 year-olds.

I didn't really talk to anyone about it. I'm sure the school counselor would have been happy for me to come in if I wanted to talk. I'm sure my parents could have afforded to send me to a therapist, and they would have been happy to. Other friends, other family members of mine would have let me open up. The reason I didn't talk to anyone wasn't because there weren't any options. I just didn't.

The only person I talked to in depth about it was his mother. Seeing a mother's grief is terrifying. So I kept on a solid mission to be strong for her. When I talked about it with her, my main focus wasn't getting things off my chest. So instead, I like to read the news and volunteer to cope with it. I think it helps when you see how big the world is. When you see how many good things can happen. When you see how terrible things can get. It kind of gives you perspective.

Seeing a mother’s grief is terrifying.

Every year for his birthday our friends meet up with his family and I make a point to spearhead that. His mother is a sweet person and I enjoy reminiscing with her about him. I think she appreciates it. His brother recently had a child. It's great to see his mother happy again. Seeing a grandmother's joy is comforting.

I guess knowing that I had a Plan B for coping, that I did have these options, that kind of removed some level of anxiety towards it. Without too much anxiety, I was able to attempt to get past it on my own. If I wasn't close to my family to talk to them, or if I didn't go to a school that had a welcoming school counselor, or if I didn't have the means to get a psychologist or psychiatrist, that probably would put more pressure on me to get through something on my own. Pressure on a teenager going through something certainly adds fuel to the fire.