Smiling on the outside
Jimmy Bonnell details his struggle with mental health issues; encourages others not to give up
It couldn’t have been easy, but Jimmy Bonnell went public with his personal struggle with mental health issues in a Facebook post on May 9.
“I was on Facebook and I seen a lot about mental health awareness, and I guess where I struggle so long – so hard for so long and then I decided to come out,” the 18-year-old year old told The Southern Gazette on May 11.
“I wasn’t very public about it, it was between me and my parents — my best friend might have known. I felt like I was alone for so long and I said, ‘Well, if I can put it on Facebook and get even one or two comments, at least people will know then that they’re not really alone, (even) if they think they are.”
Bonnell said his motivation for going public with his story was not to draw attention to himself, but rather to help raise awareness to the struggles people go through with mental health issues.
“I just wanted people to realize that there is someone there for them,” he said. “I bottled myself up in my room, I probable came out for supper and that was it. I would come out and get supper and go back in the room.”
He added that he isolated himself, often only leaving his room to go to the softball field.
“Then I’d come home again and stay home all night — it wasn’t good,” he said.
Bonnell said at the age of five he found the body of his grandfather who had passed away.
“I guess that just stuck with me and stuck with me, …I didn’t speak about it, I kept it to myself,” he said.
“Than I started opening up more and that when it really started bothering me, because I would remember it — then when I would talk about it flashback in my head.”
Bonnell was placed on suicide watch this past November.
“I tired to overdose on my blood pressure pills,” he explained. “It was raining, horrible day out by the door. Mom and my brother came out to try and find me. Mom found me after (that) we went up to the hospital and I was up there for the night. Then they sent me to town (St. John’s) the next day, and then I got sent home from there.”
Bonnell views that as a turning point in his life.
“It opened my eyes to say that I got to change, because I seen how upset mom and my family was, cause they already lost a daughter, so I didn’t want them to go through that pain again,” he said.
It wasn’t his first time attempting to overdose. Bonnell said after his second attempt he saw how much support he had from not only his parents and sibling but his extended family as well.
“I was like, ‘If they care when I don’t care about myself — that was the point where I said if I cared about myself then maybe I can change things.’”
Bonnell said his issues started when he made the transition from Sacred Heart Academy to Pearce Junior High School.
“I was always in Marystown, I was always around the same teachers,” he said. “I went up there and I didn’t know anybody.”
He added that being mixed with a new group of students also caused him to develop anxiety issues.
“I was like, ‘What would they think of me,’” he said. “It was like that for like a day a week so I was like, ‘Ok look, this time next week it won’t happen.’”
Bonnell said over time his anxiety became worse, going from once a week to five days.
“The summer of Grade 9 I was horrible, it was the worst three months of my life,” he said.
Bonnell said by Grade 10 he was forcing himself to attend school as often as he could.
“I didn’t like being around people,” he said. “I felt like everybody was going to be judgmental of me because I stress ate, so I gained a lot of weight.
“I looked like a skeet, I felt like one to be honest, so I didn’t now if they were going to judge me for that. I was going to high school with a bunch of older kids as well so the stress of that just got to me.”
Bonnell dropped out before completing Grade 10.
“In Grade 11 I went back and I got good marks last year, and for the past four or five weeks I’ve been there everyday, and I got an 88 average now,” said the Grade 12 student.
“I feel a lot better but it’s still there sometimes, the feelings.”
Bonnell said he has incorporated a variety of activities into his life to helps him cope with his anxiety.
“I started playing guitar, I found that when I play guitar it relaxes me, I’m not very good now mind you,” he said with a chuckle, “but it relaxes me.”
He said that playing catch, going for walks, as well as going for a drive in the car are also some ways he finds to relax.
Bonnell said that from the outside it is not always evident that someone is battling a mental health issue.
“You can look at me and say, ‘He looks happy’ or whatever, but in my head I’m putting on a show for you to make you think that I’m OK,” he said.
Bonnell hopes that by sharing his story, he can help others who may be suffering in silence find the strength to reach out to others.
“It’s one of the worst feelings I ever had,” he said of his own experience. “You’re really never alone, there’s always someone willing to talk.
“But when you feel that way, you do feel like your alone, like there’s no one there for ya, no one (who) wants to listen or no one will take it serious is a big one.”
He continued, “It’s better to reach out to somebody than to leave it bottled up and when you let it all out, when you basically explode, it’s a lot worse when the feelings for the last four years have been in ya, compared to if you were talking to someone last night.”
Jimmy Bonnell, 18, hopes that by opening up about his own battles with metal health issues it will encourage others who may feel the same way to seek help.