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Jessica, Age: 21

Unfortunately I had my senior prom and graduated high school without my parents, but my community at Hartford Hospital was with me every step of the way.

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

Looking back, I suppose I first experienced symptoms around 9th grade. My serious long term boyfriend had cheated on me and I was devastated. Despite being hurt, I begged him to stay with me. We were in limbo for a while, and when he finally chose to end things with me I was extremely sad. I have a specific memory of being on a ladder and wanting to jump off die. Although I did not jump off the ladder, this was the first time I had such intrusive thoughts.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

My ex boyfriend’s brother referred me to the social worker at my school. He came with me my first time because I didn’t know what to expect. I quickly formed a very strong bond with her, little did I know how much I would need her through the next few years of high school. After I got over the break up, things only got worse. The sadness and despair grew and grew. On the outside, I had the picture perfect life. I was an honor roll student, a varsity athlete, the president of my youth group, and I had more friends than I could have asked for. However, when I went home at the end of the day none of that mattered because in my father’s eyes nothing I ever did was good enough.I was criticized and degraded for everything I did. Eventually, any encounter with my father turned into a paralyzing panic attack. I could not move, speak, or even look someone in the eye. This could last anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

After one of the worst panic attack’s I ever had, I voluntarily admitted myself to the emergency room with because my father wouldn’t bring me. I was admitted to the inpatient unit and when I was released I was mandated to 3 days of group outpatient therapy along with individual therapy. I came home, but shortly after my father kicked me out. During the last 3 months of high school I was living with different friends and family. Unfortunately I had my senior prom and graduated high school without my parents, but my community at Hartford Hospital was with me every step of the way.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

I am now a full time student at Central Connecticut State University studying Psychology. I am working at the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Hartford, creating support groups for young adults in recovery. I am living independently with my therapeutic kitty named Handsome.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

I wish I knew that I wasn’t the only one suffering through these challenges. I felt so alone and afraid to ask for help, but when I did reach out everyone was there to help.