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Tammy Ozolins: The Mask of ME!

One day in the year 2015-16 school year I was sitting on the gymnasium floor and there was a pep rally happening. During the pep rally they were announcing the teacher awards. They announced the first year teacher, Christie Award, then they announced the Gilman Teacher of the Year Award. After it was announced, the students were screaming and clapping, the teachers were clapping too. I was like zoned out, and then I hear one student say Ms. Oz it is you, I was like what, it is you. I could not believe it, I stood up and walked to the front of the gym to be recognized. I was in complete shock, I never thought I would ever get this award. I actually had tears in my eyes. What is the best part is it is voted on by my colleagues, so it was not the administration that voted it was my peers. I went back to my seat still shocked but so excited and for the first time in a long time proud of myself.

Now, the reason I am saying this is because I manage and cope with Bipolar Disorder and for my colleagues to overlook this. They saw me as this wonderful educator(I am open about my mental health condition so some of my colleagues knew this). I also wanted people to see that you can be successful. I have a long story and have worked hard to accept and stay in what I would call recovery with my mental health. I am an advocate for mental health and I am always looking for platforms to share my story of hope and successes I have had in my life. I write blogs, have done some speaking engagements and I am writing a book about my story. I am always looking for other avenues to help fight the stigma behind mental health and with IYCSM I was able to do this.

One day my paths crossed with this lovely lady by the name Erin Mahone. I heard she has this non-profit organization called If You Could See Me and it was helping to fight the stigma of mental health and was allowing people to share their courageous journeys among a crowd. I was honored that she asked me to be in her show. The first show I did was on a theater stage and it was AWESOME. Erin allows you to be creative and guides us through the process. She made me feel so comfortable. It allowed me to be able to share some of my story with other people I did not know and allowed me to meet some other wonderful people, it is like we have become a family! The show allowed me to talk to the crowd after to keep that dialogue going. I then did another show for the IYCSM and it was another great experience(I talked about wearing different masks throughout my struggle). IYSCM has allowed me to continue to share my story through live shows, and video podcasts. It truly has allowed me to wear one mask now- and that is ME. I can not wait to continue on my journey to help others, especially so they realize I will always be in recovery. I still have mood swings, but now I am able to handle them much better! Again, working with the IYCSM has allowed me to do this and continue to grow as a person and continue to fight the stigma of mental health. I want to say thanks to the IYCSM family!!!

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