Justin Bachman's Story
My story really starts in elementary school. Back then I was a scared, insecure and lost kid with nothing close to an identity. I wasn't good at making friends, and I never seemed to fit in. I told myself I was worthless, and I started to believe it. I thought that my life didn't matter and that the world was better without me. It got so bad that I attempted suicide three times before I was 11 years old.
Thankfully, my family got me help, and I made it out alive.
At age 12, I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (TS), and I finally knew what was making me so different. I became more confident, and I learned to embrace the differences I had instead of running away from them.
In 8th grade, I was disqualified from a cross-country meet because officials didn’t understand my tics. they saw these movements and noises as purposeful disrespect, and refused to listen when I tried to explain it to them. This was the first time I had experienced intolerance of this magnitude. At the same time, I knew that I wasn't the only one, that others were facing the same intolerance simply because they were different.
At that point, I had 2 choices: be a victim of intolerance or take action.
I chose to take action and it set me on the most incredible journey.
I am proud to say taking action was the best choice I have ever made. In 2010, I founded a non-profit that I called Honor Good Deeds (HGD), which did business as Different Like You. The non-profit was in existence until 2016.
Through this organization, I wrote a speech called “Living Loud”, which I still perform today. In the past, I have done over 155 full school assemblies to over 87,000 people in 15 states. My message is very relatable to students because it comes from someone their own age.
One moment I will never forget took place in October after a speech in Cincinnati. Often, after my speeches, students come up to tell me how my message impacted them. On that particular day, I noticed one girl hanging back. She wanted to talk with me privately and waited for all the other students to leave. She approached me, and told me she had a suicide plan she had put into motion, and that night, her intention was to end her life. She told me that my speech made her realize her life did have value and she asked me how I got through my hard times.
That day her journey to recovery began.
It's an odd feeling - a strange mix of sadness, pride, empathy and hope - being able to literally save a life. It it something I never would have imagined possible, but it goes to show just how powerful a personal story can be. Since that day, I have had 19 similar reports - a number that is small, yet, way too large.
I am now a student at Syracuse University. I imagine that my college career will be less about the words on my degree, and more about the people I meet and experiences I share along the way. I am majoring in Broadcast and Digital Journalism through the Newhouse School of Communication.
My life has been dedicated to making a difference and inspiring young people to be proud of the things that make them who they truly are. I know first hand what it is like to be different and to feel alone, to feel like no one cares. It's my hope that others will join me in this work so that no one has to feel that way. I will continue to work until the issue of intolerance is eliminated, and I hope you will join me.