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“I’ve realized I don’t need anyone to open doors for me. I’ve opened them all by myself. And the hardships I faced…have fueled me and given me strength to get through obstacles many people might find impossible.”

The police knew us on a first-name basis. The summer of 1998 was particularly chaotic because the police were called to our home every single day for a few months in a row. After the many years of abuse we suffered at the hands of our bi-polar, prescription-pill-abusing mother, my sister and I began to fight back. Fighting was all we knew and fighting was how we would attempt to address every problem we had in our lives.

After my mother was released from the psychiatric unit for the umpteenth time, we knew we were in for more hell on earth and we were not happy to see her. This time, mom was admitted because she had cut her wrists in front of us after a fight started over some dirty dishes. The fights always started over something small but turned into explosions so intense neighbors down the block could hear. Mom would always seem to be better for a few days after she got out of the psych unit, but the decent behavior was often short-lived.

Within a few days, my mother was badgering my father because she, as usual, accused him of unjustly taking mine and my sister’s side. My father knew what my mother did was wrong, but she always tried to force him to be a united front against my sister and me, as if we were at war against each other. And it was war. In every sense of the word, we were at battle on a daily basis, attempting to maneuver through a battlefield filled with physical violence, insane verbal abuse and mind games. The damage was immeasurable.

At one point, the mayor and chief of police threatened to put a lean on our home if the fighting and 911 calls did not stop. Law enforcement and the neighbors had had enough and wanted us out of the neighborhood I had spent my entire life growing up in. This tipping point came after my mom attacked my bedroom door with a butcher knife, because I locked myself in it to escape her. Little did she know I was leaning against the door, as the 12-inch butcher knife stabbed through my door and past my head. As I backed away, the door was punctured repeatedly with the knife and after that, eventually, with a sledge hammer. By the time the police arrived AGAIN, the door was completely demolished, and they AGAIN arrested my mother. This was not the end of the abuse, but at least the end of it for that day.

I remember as a young child feeling loved by my mother. She was a sweet woman who I knew loved me. But for some reason, she was unable to control her mental obsessions and pill abuse. She never tried.

It took me a long time to realize that people who love each other aren’t supposed to treat each other like this. I really thought this was normal.

I wanted a different life so badly I could taste it. I wanted to live in peace and I wanted to make a positive impact in the world. I remember I went to visit my old Junior High School when I was about to start college (first one in my family to go to college). One of my old teachers was shocked and admitted to me she and other school staff thought for sure I would end up in jail, because of the way I acted out in school and because of the abuse they saw me suffer. This revelation only motivated me more to prove them wrong. I ended up graduating from college with high University Honors, after being on the honor roll every single semester during my college career.

Because I’ve seen the darkest of days and suffered greatly over a long period of time, I’ve always felt like I have nothing else to lose. I go for it, no matter what IT is. Just 30 days after graduating from college, I moved from the Midwest to Los Angeles to pursue a career in television. I knew one person, who let me sleep on their couch. I had $300, three suitcases and a dream. Within a year, I got my big break and started working on several TV shows. For the past 5 years, I’ve been working on the Dr. Phil Show, working my way up the ladder all the way to being a Producer. The irony of working on such a well-respected show that helps people who’re dealing with major family dramas has not been lost on me and continuously blows my mind.

I’ve realized I don’t need anyone to open doors for me. I’ve opened them all by myself. And the hardships I’ve faced because of the abuse I’ve suffered have fueled me and given me strength to get through obstacles many people might find impossible.

Full Q&A With Nick