Mariah Leonard SpeaksUp

I was bullied in high school, and always had that overwhelming sense of depression and social anxiety, but it never occurred to me how serious it could be.

I went to college, still dealing with social anxiety, but the depression had worn off. It was a beautiful new start for me, at least for the first half of college. In 2011, I was sexually assaulted, and it changed my life forever. I became severely depressed and suicidal. I can clearly recall September 21, 2011, when I sat with pills in my hand ready to end it all. But something else took hold of me, and the next thing I knew, I was standing in the counselor’s office waiting to be taken to the hospital. I was about to be admitted to the psychiatric floor. Nobody can ever be prepared for that. I spent two weeks in that hospital. I left at the end of those two weeks with prescriptions and a diagnosis of major depressive disorder. Nothing helped though. I barely made it through the rest of the semester. I went home for break, came back, and was right back in the hospital. This time they were kind enough to transfer me to a hospital closer to home so I could be with my family. I spent a total of a week this time, surrounded by people with similar issues. Once again I was released, this time with more prescriptions, and another diagnosis of PTSD.

I went back to school, but later it was decided it was time to take a break. My heart broke; I felt like a failure for dropping out mid-semester. School was all I had to give me a purpose, and it was now gone. I went home and spent day after day, month after month, in the same chair in the family room. I slept in that chair, I ate carton after carton of ice cream. I envied people on Facebook who seemed to have their lives so together. I was done. I wrote my funeral plans and prepared to end it. Again.

This was the third time I would end up in the hospital, and it would be the last. I spent only three days in there, before I went home again. Something inexplicable sparked in me. I felt maybe I was supposed to do something about it, and I couldn't sit around anymore. I met someone who would soon become my boyfriend, and today is my husband. I found support in him. I had always found support in my family and friends, but this was different. I told him right away that he would be dating someone who was still working on things. I thought he should know what he was getting into. He listened, he loved, he accepted.

After taking a year off, my family and Kevin supported me in going back to school, and I completed my degree. On my graduation cap, I spelled out "My fight is won." My fight had been won. I overcame because I found support, and learned to take care of myself. I now work in a field where I provide support to others in similar situations, and I feel it is time for me to pay it forward. I'm not a victim of anything, but rather I am a survivor. I support Cameron in her mission because if I had known her, I'm sure she would have been my main reason for speaking up. She is the drive behind many hurting souls seeking peace.


Katherine Cook