Its About Us. Not Between Us.
My name is Teah Hughes. As the founder of Stuck in the Middle (STIM), I’d like to share my personal story about how my organization was created.
I was ten years old and my little brother was just a one and half year old toddler when our parents first separated. Our parents argued all the time. Their feuds were ongoing and continued for several years until their final divorce, six years later. Their arguments were so frequent, they caused me a lot of grief. I cried in my bed at night, on the way to school, but mainly at home and alone. They used to listen to me when I’d ask them to stop fighting, but after a while, they just stopped listening. My heart and my life were both shattered. Somehow my little brother, George and I, managed to survive our parent’s hostile separation which ultimately evolved into a contentious divorce.
I remember the moment the idea came to mind. It was in October 2014 and I was trying to decide on a topic for my college essay to Penn State. I kept reflecting on my parents' strife and how much emotional despair their relationship caused both my brother and me. I began to journalize my thoughts and feelings which eventually inspired me to write an essay about our family situation and how I planned to overcome this challenge. I wanted to start my own non-profit, one that would benefit other children who were dealing with similar challenges of learning to cope and manage the mental trauma caused by separating or divorcing parents. I titled my essay, "Stuck in the Middle” because my brother and I were truly stuck in the middle of our parents’ discord. They just never seemed to consider how their actions affected us.
Later, I learned I was accepted to Penn State’s main campus. Instead of being happy, I felt guilty. I felt I was abandoning my little brother. I felt I was leaving him alone, without any support and still stuck in the middle of our parents' conflicts. I should have been happy and excited about moving on to a new chapter in my life. But instead, I really felt guilty, fearful and anxious. I was leaving my brother behind with no support and no one to talk to. I was his confidant and he was mine. I considered not going away to school but my mom encouraged me to go and assured me he would be okay.
Things began to quiet down between our parents but only for a little while. Back and forth visits to court to resolve unsettled issues created even more stress for us. While in my freshman year, the constant distress at home led me to seek out counseling. I was sad and had moments when all I would do is cry. I was sleeping a lot and often it was to escape my reality. I withdrew from my family. I would focus on the negative events in my life instead of the many positive experiences. I even had suicidal thoughts and I felt like giving up until a friend urged me to talk to someone.
The counseling sessions were helpful but the hardest work fell on me learning and practicing self-care strategies and techniques daily. I learned how to identify my triggers, cope and even manage my stressors. It was a struggle, but I developed a self-care action plan and began to focus less on things I could not control and more on the things I could. I began to concentrate on my classes. Gradually, things got better. I began to focus more on the positive events in my life and I began to smile and laugh more often. Life for me began to progress! My motivation to become stronger and happier had improved. I love both my parents dearly but, I now have more ambition and determination to take care of me and live life more abundantly.
My parent’s divorce was devastating and it had a life-changing impact on me, so much that it inspired me to change my major. I once strived to become a Veterinarian and had majored in Pre-Veterinary Science but, my personal experience has led me to redirect my interest.
Today, I am now majoring in Psychology and African-American Studies. My goal is to become a Psychotherapist so that I can help other children and their families similar to mine. I want to teach them how to overcome their emotional battles, other mental health challenges and to help their parents focus on their children’s interests first.
By the way, my brother, who is my biggest little hero, is currently a thriving middle school student and has earned himself a three-year top scholar merit scholarship to a private school. He’s a little techy and loves to build things. He aspires to become a Robotics Engineer.
So, I dedicate the purpose of this organization not only to myself and my brother but to other youth and young adults like us.
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE
501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization