Growing up I was taught at a very young age the only way to become successful was to earn a 4.0 GPA. A high GPA meant acceptance into the best universities across the country. So I pushed myself to earn nothing but the best grades so I wouldn’t disappoint my parents. Year after year I continued to beat myself up if I received anything less than an A. But then something happened that would change my life forever.

My mom had a psychotic break.

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Jacquelyn (Pictured far left), her siblings, and mother (Far right).

She was diagnosed with severe depression and bipolar disorder. Witnessing the acts of mania my mom exhibited scared me – she did things that I thought only a “crazy” person would do. My mom was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward for months on and off for a whole year. I was 13 at the time and remembered absolutely dreading going to visit her. Everything was locked and I thought that the patients were treated like prisoners. My mom’s doctors even made me sit in a conference with my mom and her psychiatrist asking if I wanted my mom to get better. That to me was scarring – of course I wanted her to get better but not in a place like a psychiatric ward.

It was all too much for me to handle.

It was during this time that I myself started becoming severely depressed. But seeing what happened to my mom once she was diagnosed with depression made me deny that I had it. Instead I started cutting where no one could see it – my upper thighs mostly. Cutting provided me with a release that nothing else could – it was like it was taking all my pain away.

The pain that I didn’t want anyone to know I had for fear of being institutionalized,

like my mom.

As time went on my mom got better and was released from the hospital and allowed to come home. Things also seemed to be looking up for me as well – I had stopped cutting and was convinced that my “depressed episode” was just a phase. Years later in my senior year of high school I realized that it was not.

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Jacquelyn’s Best Friends

My parents grew up in the 50’s – a time where gays were, put simply, not accepted. Summer of 2014 rolled around and my parents found out that I was gay while we were on a family vacation. Needless to say it didn’t go over well – they called me disgusting among many other hurtful things that I will choose to leave out of this piece of writing. Knowing that my parents would never be able to accept me for who I truly am is a pain that I will carry around for the rest of my life. Senior year is supposed to be the best year in your high school career but for me, it wasn’t. Starting out I was already walking on eggshells since my parents found out about my sexuality when I wasn’t even ready to tell them. I was struggling with accepting myself as the months of senior year began to pass. I tortured myself by trying to convince myself that it was just this one girl I liked and that was it. I felt guilty and ashamed for even being attracted to a girl. The words that stuck most with me was when my mom said:

 “I would never give birth to a gay child”

So I continued to try and convince myself that I wasn’t. It was an internal battle that lasted for months and one that I eventually lost.

When winter came it was like all hopes of things getting better went out the door. I have never been a fan of winter and have since been diagnosed with seasonal affected disorder. With less than 4 months left of high school my motivation hit an all time low and it wasn’t because of senioritis. I had no will power to get out of bed, eat, or even shower anymore. All of my dark thoughts had consumed every last bit of energy I had left in me. I was convinced my parents no longer loved me cause of my sexuality. I worried I wasn’t going to be able to graduate with my class – all of my years of hard work was going to be for nothing. It was during this time that I had hit rock bottom – I was feeling suicidal for the first time in my life and simply did not see the point of living if no one accepted me for who I truly was including myself. My mom noticed these behavioral changes in me and encouraged me to see a counselor, I reluctantly agreed.

I went into counseling with high hopes and left very disappointed. It did not help me at all and I felt worse than ever. The option of medication was presented and I again reluctantly agreed to try it and there were some improvements in my mood. I saw a little glimmer of hope. Once spring came my mood had improved dramatically and with all of the exciting senior activities going on – they provided an excellent distraction from focusing on my negative thoughts. I had even committed to a college – Umass Dartmouth for nursing. Everything seemed to have gotten better.

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Jacquelyn’s Roommate and bestfriend

I had been a nursing student for a whole semester now. But with nursing also came a new diagnosis for me: pseudo seizures. During my first semester at college, I was in and out of the ER a total of eight times and finally received the correct diagnosis of pseudo seizures which are psychogenic non-epileptic seizures brought on by extreme amounts of stress. My body was so stressed out that it was presenting itself in the form of fake seizures where I would not be able to walk or recognize my friends. It was after my diagnosis that I realized nursing wasn’t for me. In order to treat my pseudo seizures I was diagnosed with anxiety and put on Zoloft to control my stress levels.

I felt very lost knowing that I had to change my major especially knowing it had to be a major my parents approved of in order to sign off on my student loans. My parents only care about end product – the salary earned once your schooling is done. This being said, I went to them with countless majors I could see myself doing and enjoying and was constantly turned down. Despair soon followed – I was beginning to feel like I was trapped. It felt like the walls were closing in on me and I could do nothing but wait to be crushed. I couldn’t find a major we both agreed on. This uncertainty regarding my future flung me into the worst depression of my life. I wouldn’t get out of bed for days at a time – my roommate had to literally drag me to the dining hall just so she would make sure I would eat something.

It was frightening.

I didn’t care about anyone and definitely didn’t care that I was hurting the people I loved most by pushing them away as they were trying to help. I had lost all hope and started researching how to complete a successful suicide. I became obsessed with researching methods; I wasn’t scared of dying anymore. I just feared my attempt wouldn’t work. Since I failed at being a nursing major I wanted to make sure I didn’t fail at trying to kill myself as well.

How pathetic would that be I thought to myself.

Luckily the night I attempted it (lots of strong sleeping pills and glasses of alcohol later) my roommate noticed I was acting off and called 911. I had so many mixed emotions while I was in the hospital. It was while I was under observation that I realized I needed professional help and started regularly seeing a counselor. Talking to someone every week helped and my psychiatrist also upped my medicine dosage. My mood was more stable than ever and my parents and I had even agreed on a major. Sadly, the dark thoughts kept creeping into the back of my head and everyday is a struggle to expel them.

A reality check came this summer when one of my good friends, Zachary, who was serving in the United States Air Force, committed suicide. I was in such a s1264tate of shock – to this day it still doesn’t even feel real. Going to his funeral and seeing the heartbreak, pain, and anguish that filled the room made me realize that committing suicide was something I would never ever again consider. I would never put my friends, family, and loved ones in the position where they had to think “what could I have done to prevent this from happening?” I wouldn’t want them to feel responsible for my death as I felt once I found out about Zach’s death. I thought to myself constantly if I just checked in with him maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Zach was the last person I would have ever suspected to be severely depressed. It just proves the statement that depression discriminates against no one.

Every day presents itself as a challenge to making sure I am one step closer to learning how to love myself- all flaws included. Since senior year I have proudly accepted the fact that yes I do like girls regardless of what my parents think of it and have been in a stable, healthy relationship for a little over 5 months now. Denying I had depression for years because of the fear of being institutionalized made me realize that having a mental illness isn’t the end of the world. It’s simply a part of me and I am learning how to not let my depression and anxiety define me as a person. My depression comes in waves – tiny and big and always unexpected. I still have very dark thoughts, but I now have effective coping mechanisms to kick depression’s ass. Along with new coping mechanisms, I have a strong supportive system in the form of best friends, my two older siblings, as well as my favorite high school teacher Mrs. Holton. Without all of them I can honestly say I wouldn’t be here today.

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If you are feeling depressed don’t you dare feel guilty or ashamed. You are not broken and you are certainly not crazy. You my friend are a warrior – someone who has to fight everyday to dismiss the negative thoughts out of your head. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for – carrying on every day when you feel like you cannot bear another hour. You have touched the lives of so many and you are cared for by numerous people. Don’t ever give up hope for times will get better – just keep on keeping on and enjoy this crazy ride they call life.


Thanks to Jacquelyn Pack for submitting her story. Comment below with how stress affected you growing up, and leave Jacquelyn some love. Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.

PF

Want to submit to this site and share your story, art, or article related to mental health or mental illness? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com

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23 comments

  1. Wow, good for you for being so strong and coming out. I grew up with two gay siblings and depression runs in our family. I too have been on medication for depression for ever 10 years. Don’t ever feel ashamed of who you are. Trust me, everyone out there is fighting some sort of battle. Stay true to yourself and keep taking the meds. They do help. Sorry you had to endure such pain. No you don’t suffer alone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! Everyone is fighting their own battles – just have to encourage one another to stay strong! Thanks for reading it – the pain made me me 🙂

      Like

  2. Jackie,

    For so many reasons, what you wrote shows tremendous courage and bravery as well as a growing sense of being comfortable in your own skin. Those are not easy things for any of us to do, and its impressive … far more impressive than someone earning a 4.0 GPA, passing a standardized test, or earning a six-figure income. Those things ultimately mean nothing if you’re not able to be happy with yourself.

    As I read your story, one of my favorite John Lennon quotes came to mind: “You don’t need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are.”

    We all fall victim to trying to portray the image that others expect of us, or put up some sort of facade to make it look like we’re rebelling against those expectations. Being true to oneself is something that is not so easy for so many. Sadly, far too many of us struggle to even be true to oneself when alone without the fear of judgement from others dangling overhead like the Sword of Damocles.

    I hope and pray you’re able to continue to build upon and strengthen your positive coping mechanisms. Stay strong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had never heard that quote before but i like it very much! I will continue building up my coping mechanisms and keep on chugging!

      Like

  3. I was amazed to see someone from my college share this article and I realized I recognized the author. Jackie, you may not remember me, but we went to ocean camp together some years ago. I don’t remember enough about you but you were one of the names and faces I didn’t forget. We may not even have been in high school yet. I do know that this is something I never would have expected to be going on in your life. Though you have it rougher, I can relate to your struggles with anxiety and depression and the pressure to succeed and meet expectations set by others. I’m so glad to see that you’re making it through and coping – I’m so happy that I found this instead of an obituary. I’ve grown a lot from my personal struggles, and I feel that seeing yourself through the difficult times and how you’ve changed is something so magical. You think back to when it all began and you look at what you have now and it’s hard not to be proud, even if you know it won’t always be perfect. I hope that as you get more to look back on, you hold on to your strength and work through hard times to come. I know you may not remember me, but maybe it will at least help show your impact on the world – you never know just who will see and appreciate your work, or just who may miss you in some way of you were gone, whether it’s someone like me who was a small part of your life, a pet, a peer, a professor. a friend, etc. I’m glad that you’ve had some wonderful people around to help you get where you are today, and I hope that even when things get difficult or when it can be hard to recognize your allies that you think back on all you’ve handled already and remember that you deserve to be alive. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t remember you but i also have a very forgetful memory to start with. I am truly touched that my story hit so close to home for you and meant this much. Seeing how far you’ve come from such a dark place is an amazing feeling you’re right. Its a reminder you are much stronger than you give yourself credit for. Thank you for the kind words – hope all is well !!

      Like

  4. Well done for your courage in sharing your story Jacqueline. I hope that you continue to grow your self esteem and self acceptance. Sadly not all parents are able to give unconditional love, but that is their failing not yours. It takes time and effort but we can find happiness even after great trauma. Good luck to you x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jacquelyn, one of the most profound things I’ve encountered so far in my life is the ability to understand and cope effectively with an invisible darkness that is constantly brushed under the rug, stigmatized, and minimalized. Your struggles with sexual identity and mental health are an ideal example of admirable perseverance. Please keep your head up through the struggles and realize how strong you truly are. It’s hard to see all the benevolence and strength within yourself, especially during the hard times. But this story-your story-shows that the positivity and love within you is abundant. Your future, and the possibilities of happiness and success, is endless, my friend. Whenever you need anything, all of us are here 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will keep my head up as there always is a light at the end of the tunnel. Optimism is a key factor – I appreciate the reassurance you provided me with saying everyone is here for me!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jacquelyn,
    Good for you speaking out! I have known you from the day you were born, literally was there in the delivery room during the c-section. Quite amazing. You were a beautiful baby and have grown to be such a beautiful young woman. I was there when your mom was sick and in the hospital but never really understood what was going on, but after reading your story I understand a lot of what you went through growing up. Mel always talked about her kids being “Doctors” or “Lawyers” or some BIG WIG high paying career. Stay strong Jackie, You are a very beautiful person inside and out. There are so many things you can do to be happy and successful – it is what YOU want, not what everyone else wants.
    Patty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t believe you read this !!! I hope all is well 🙂 Thank you for the very kind words – they mean a lot. I have learned to do what I wanna do with my life not anyone else. XOXO

      Like

  7. Jackie I am sorry for your struggles.You were always a shining star and a joy to teach! I wish you the courage to stay strong.If you ever need someone to listen please don’t hesitate to contact me.Best wishes Ms. Morrissey

    Like

  8. Jackie,
    You are such a special and brave young woman. Keep fighting! Know that I am praying for you and that you are loved!
    -Lauren

    Like

  9. Dear Jackie,

    Your article was forwarded to me by a friend. I was very moved by your words. You are brave and smart and beautiful. I’m so very glad you chose life. Please don’t ever give up…you never know how you may touch another person with your story. I understand despair and that it can swallow a person up. I know how in the moment suicide may seem like the only way to stop the pain. Unfortunately, I also know the heartache of losing a loved one to suicide and the devastation it leaves behind is far and wide. I’m Zach’s mom, and every day when I wake up and open my eyes, for a split second I think maybe it was just a horrible nightmare, maybe I can call him and hear his voice, maybe I can thank God that it’s all been a big mistake. But it’s true and it’s real and it’s forever. I will miss him and ache for him until I take my last breath. Stay strong, you matter. We all matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t imagine the pain you must feel everyday because Zach is no longer with us. But he will always be with us in our hearts – I think about him everyday and it still doesn’t seem real to me. Thank you for the kind words – they truly mean a lot – Zach will forever be missed by everyone – his presence has touched the lives of so many and that is something that will never change.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you Jackie for sharing your story. I commend you for sharing your inner most feelings in order to help those in need…..this story may save a life. I too knew Zach. I watched him grow from a baby into a caring young man with his whole life ahead of him. I too asked myself many “what if’s.” Suicide is such a devastating loss for loved ones left behind. A loss you never truly heal from. I am glad you reached out in your time of need and are working toward being healthy. You are just how God intended you to be. Be true to yourself…..always. God Bless you!

    Like

  11. Thank you for sharing your story Jackie. Your words are inspiring and may give a person enough hope to seek help and save their life. I too knew Zach and miss him every day. I watched him grow from a baby into a caring young man with his whole life ahead of him. I look out the window and I can still see him playing basketball, riding his bike or stacking wood for us. Over the last few months I asked myself many “what ifs” too. One can never truly heal from a devastating loss like this. It was so unexpected. I am grateful that you are on the road to good health and accepting you for who you are. You are not broken…..you are a courageous young woman who found her way. Be true to yourself….always. God Bless you. Gerri

    Liked by 1 person

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