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Johnsie's Story

"I think there is a large misconception in regards to mental illnesses in which people assume something terrible has to have happened to you for you to suffer from depression. When I was 14, nothing had happened to me. I grew up in a stereotypical suburban home with a supportive family. But I remember one night, holding my knees, sobbing on the floor of the garage, wishing there were something ‘wrong’ with me. I wished for a mental illness. What I didn’t know at the time is that I had one, what I was wishing for was a name, a diagnosis.


A few months after that night, some events occurred that created an extremely stressful household. There was so much attention on the particular issue and so much hatred in my family’s words to each other during those months, that I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone just how low I was feeling. I had everything I needed, I didn’t want to selfishly detract from the real issues. I convinced myself that speaking up about my suicidal thoughts would be selfish. Speaking about myself at all was selfish. I started overanalyzing how often I spoke about myself and I would reprimand myself if I thought I had been too selfish in a conversation each day. I became extremely paranoid, questioning if my friends were really even my friends. I felt completely alone.


At the end of my 14th year, while my parents were out of town, I climbed into the hot tub at my family’s house. My sisters were known for picking on me, and one of their old pranks had been locking me inside of the hot tub to see how long I could hold my breath (a little dangerous, yes, but still just child’s play). This time, I climbed in with less playful intentions. I had been deliberately analyzing for the past year what was the best way to take my own life. I decided drowning seemed the most poetic. Since I still couldn’t drive, the hot tub would have to do.


I locked the snaps on three corners of the hot tub and turned the heat as high as it could go (luckily, it is difficult to lock the fourth from the inside). To this day, I do not know how long I was in that hot tub. But I remember beating my hands on the underneath of the cover, gasping for air, and choking on a mixture of steam and water. I remember sliding my hand between the slit and unlocking a second snap, throwing the cover up and breathing against the cold concrete of the patio. I remember walking into the house and climbing into bed with my soaked clothes and my dripping hair. I remember going 6 more years before I told someone.


Coming to College, my self-esteem dropped even further. I didn’t think I had made the right decision and felt like I wasn’t connecting with anyone. Sophomore year, my depression worsened when my best friend transferred to get help with her own mental illnesses. That’s when I began self-harming by burning my forearms and ankles. I burned the same four spots over and over again to remain inconspicuous. A few friends asked about the burns on my forearms, but I could easily play them off as accidents from cooking. I desperately wished for someone to probe. I actually blamed my friends for not noticing, for not helping me. It distanced me even further and in promoted my self-hatred.


My self-harm practices peaked in the spring semester of my sophomore year. I had promised myself when I was 14 that if it got to the point in which I knew I would attempt suicide again, I would hit the trails to save myself. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I spontaneously bought a ticket to Europe and embarked on a solo walk of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I thought the trip would be a life-altering experience—I begged it, needed it to save me. But, it turns out that your thoughts follow you—especially when you’re hiking alone for 12 hours a day. That trip didn’t save me. I came home and still self-harmed.


It wasn’t until this past fall that I finally told my family that I need help. It has been their support, professional help, and my altered outlook on life that has saved me—not some trip in which I bet all of my chips on. I still have low days, but I now know to confess when I feel so low, and that someone will always be there for me. I no longer view my illness as weak or selfish, I view it as human."



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