‘I Feel Like I Can Help Others’

It takes about one second to be inspired by Nate.

The towering 22-year-old is the definition of a friendly giant. He’s kind, overwhelmingly thoughtful and desperate to make a difference.

“I feel like I can help others,” says the gifted poet and songwriter.

Diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder and more recently Bipolar Disorder, Nate’s passion is music and poetry. He writes constantly about his struggles with mental illness and other experiences in life. He often shares them online and through his social media accounts.

 

“I love putting it out there and then someone comments about how what I wrote really touched or spoke to them,” says Nate. “It makes me feel good that I can help someone.”

Always positive, affable and funny, Nate’s recovery journey is equally heartbreaking as it is inspiring.

He grew up without a father as his mother struggled with mental illness throughout his adolescence.

“Between the ages of seven and 12 I lived in 30 different cities,” he says of childhood journey, which included stops at homeless shelters in Napanee, Cornwall, Belleville and Peterborough. “I used to try and keep track of them, but I eventually couldn’t.”

As his mother struggled, Nate found himself face-to-face with bullying and drug use.

“I remember finding a needle at a playground when I was like 10,” he says. “I didn’t touch it, but I knew what it was for.”

During this time in his life, Nate says the support of his older brother and sister is what allowed him to survive.

“My sister has always pushed me,” he says. “She’s always wanted me to do well.”

“I looked up to my brother because he never smoked drank or did drugs and he along with my mother gave me the courage to stay away from that even though I was always around it in my childhood and teen years. To this day I am clean.”

At 12 his mother passed away and Nate went to live with his sister’s father and his family in Oshawa. There he got the structure he needed and began putting down roots and making friends.

Despite bullying and some absences due to his illness, Nate always managed to earn solid grades while he also played rugby and swam on the school teams at G. L. Roberts Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Oshawa.

It was in high school when Nate became an inpatient at Ontario Shores. He continued to earn credits while at Ontario Shores through the Grove School, which is a partnership program with the Durham District School Board, and eventually graduated with his peers at G.L. Roberts.

In terms of his health, it was medication, one-on-one and group therapy and understanding his illness better that helped get him back on track.

“When I can’t sleep, that is when I run into problems,” Nate says of his mental health. “I am much better at being able to identify the symptoms coming on and I am able to deal with it.”

At one point, Nate’s future looked rather bleak. Now the opportunities may be endless.

He currently lives on his own and works as a custodian as a south Oshawa factory. His manager, Alex, is well-versed in Nate’s back story, but is more focused on what he brings to work each day.

“We’ll have days where we are stressed a little and he’ll come into the office and ask us if we are OK,” says Alex of Nate’s caring nature. “He’s just a delight to have around.”

As he continues to progress, Nate ultimately wants to find work in music, something he is passionate about. He has his sights set on the Independent Music Production program at Fanshawe College in London, which is where Nate was born.

“The one thing I can’t wait for is to be successful in something I love,” says Nate. “There’s stuff I have to accomplish first, but I eventually want to work in an industry I love.”