My Authentic Life and Headspace
Story by Ashley Jellison
Hello! My name is Ashley Jellison and I want to share my story that takes place from my junior year of high school to present day.
I still remember the day, walking into school where everyone in the grade above me was either balling their eyes out or just as confused as me. I was told during my first hour class that a student had died by suicide. My high school was pretty small, there were about 450 students total. This impacted the community immensely because even the term “suicide” was horrifying to most. However, the school and administration did nothing to ensure support for students and left a lot to feel hopeless. This created a ripple effect. From then until the end of my first semester of senior year, six more students had either attempted or died by suicide. The only thing teachers did was read the same prompt announcement each time and moved on right away.
I was dealing with severe depression myself during all this. My attendance was horrible senior year as I mentally couldn’t get myself out of bed most days. Suicidal ideation consumed my mind daily. But I had enough of not hearing resolutions to get students and staff support and resources for suicide and mental health in general. So, I had a meeting with the principal and was allowed to create a school-wide presentation informing people about resources and just to help erase the stigma of speaking out. I also got out of my comfort zone to share my story, and am thankful that a few teachers also volunteered to speak as well. Not to mention, a lot of students contributed and submitted their artwork, poetry, and writing to me to share aloud from which I chose a few. Today, I occasionally hear of current students from my high school starting to advocate for mental health by creating their own projects! This really showed me how important it is to express your feelings and to not be afraid to do so, it shows courageousness.
After all this, I finally graduated and started my journey at Michigan State University. To sum up my first semester; I was a pre-business student who ended up not being accepted into the competitive business school, took my academics seriously but was also under the influence essentially everyday, and was sexually assaulted. Being sexually assaulted was by far the most traumatic experience for me. The second the incident occurred, my body took in the trauma and I couldn’t move because my arms and legs were shaking intensely. In addition, I was still getting used to my antidepressants where I felt like a brain-fogged zombie. About a month later during winter break, I let my suicidal thoughts take over and I attempted. I’m so grateful that I called my mother when I did so she could save me. I wouldn't be alive today if it wasn’t for her.
The additional downfall to this is that after my attempt, I went on with my life and didn’t acknowledge what I tried to do. So I went back to MSU for the next semester hoping for better. I cannot describe how badly I wanted to drop out. Eventually I had to leave anyway, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to leave campus and go back home.
A year went by in a blur and I was managing my depression better. I transferred my sophomore year to U of M-Dearborn and was finally able to explore career paths that truly fit me, unlike business. I also got into yoga. Less than a week into it, I could tell my mental health was improving significantly. Call me crazy, but it led me to a feeling as if I were going through a spiritual awakening. Yoga helped me be at ease and let me become more confident with myself. Eventually, I contributed that confidence to my future and applied to the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (I didn’t apply during senior year of high school because I was simply too afraid of being rejected). From there, which was at the beginning of this year, I’ve had nothing but an amazing life. I couldn’t be more grateful. Not only am I at my dream school, I landed a legal secretary position over the summer which made me realize law school is the next step, and I found the love of my life who makes me laugh and smile like an idiot.
I want everyone reading this to know that your mental health must be a top priority. Take a break. Breathe. Reach out whenever you need to. Know that you matter and this earth is very lucky to have you part of it. You will get through the bad times and come out even stronger. It’s a lot of work and time to do so, but I promise you it’s so worth it.