Smil­ing on the out­side

Jimmy Bon­nell de­tails his strug­gle with men­tal health is­sues; en­cour­ages oth­ers not to give up

The Compass - - Sports - BY COLIN FAR­RELL THE SOUTHERN GAZETTE

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.”

COLIN FAR­RELL/ THE SOUTHERN GAZETTE

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.

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