Jo shares her mental health journey for the batyr Christmas Appeal

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Jo shares her mental health journey for the batyr Christmas Appeal

December 15, 2020

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batyr has launched its Christmas Appeal so we can continue to deliver our educational mental health programs to young people across Australia.

When she went through a period of bullying in year 10, Jo (20, Adelaide) began to question her self-worth, experiencing suffocating anxiety, the lows of depression and eventually self-harm and attempted suicide.

It started after Jo broke off a toxic relationship.

“After we broke up, he teamed up with two other boys and they went around parading at their school about how much they hated me. They called me names, they made fun of the way I looked, they made fun of who I was. I started to question whether it was true. Whether I was worthy.”

Soon, Jo started to feel nauseous every day and lost her appetite. It was a vicious cycle and she soon identified it as a symptom of her anxiety.

“Every single class felt like it went on for centuries. My leg would be constantly jiggling. My mind would be racing and my chest would feel like it was clenching. These waves of anxiety made it feel like the whole room was shaking and I was being pulled in two different directions. They felt like earthquakes.” 

Jo struggled to reach out and talk in fear of being judged. Not only because of the bullying, but because she felt like her feelings weren’t valid. She managed to speak to a teacher about the bullying and was making some progress, but then people who Jo believed were her closest friends also joined in the abuse on social media, leaving her feeling betrayed, defeated and like she wasn’t enough. 

It was during this low point that Jo received the devastating news that  her Mum had been  diagnosed with breast cancer, and Jo’s mental health spiralled even more, her earthquakes becoming more and more frequent.

“Seeing the strongest woman in my life start to have difficulties was really tough. And it made me really sad that I couldn’t do anything to save her. I felt like I was making things harder for her, with the stuff I was going through, so ultimately I barely told her how I was feeling.”

Jo’s teacher helped her through some of her darkest days, continually checking and doing what she could to support her wellbeing because she could tell something was wrong.

“She would give me snacks that she’d packed for herself so that she was sure I had eaten and would always ask if I was okay. She even voiced her concerns to my parents because she was worried about me. I had a history of self-injury at this time, and I had a non-fatal attempt on my life that year, which no one knew about. She genuinely is a main reason I am here today. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have reached out for help before I took that step, or even afterward.”

A year later, Jo was incredibly tired of the way she was feeling but was still too scared to talk about it, so she threw herself into dancing and choreographed a piece for her school’s annual performing arts festival. Along with the continued support from her teacher, the experience was a turning point for Jo as it was her way of expressing herself, and gave her the courage to reach out for more support, starting with a clinical psychologist.

“While it wasn’t a good fit, the point was that I decided to take charge, and I started to take care of myself. I told my closest friends what I’d gone through and how I felt. They were patient and didn’t pressure me to talk. They helped me get back onto my feet.”

Filled with encouragement to face her fears, Jo then spoke to her GP, who referred her to a psychologist who has been incredible in her mental health journey.

“I’m really glad that I persisted and took the leap of faith to see another professional, because she’s an integral part of my life. I struggled for a while with suicidal thoughts and attempts, but I can say that I have not had an attempt on my life since seeing her. She diagnosed me with depression and anxiety, which for me was a relief. Life goes on and crappy things still happen but after some time with the help of my therapist, friends and family, I was able to stop that room from shaking. Get the black hole to close up.”

Jo first saw a batyr program when she started at uni and was inspired by batyr’s goal to break mental health stigma. Over the next few months, she ended up volunteering for the batyr student exec at her uni and is now a lived experience speaker.

“I’ve found that being on the front lines and helping break down the stigma has been so helpful and empowering, especially when I remember the fear and embarrassment I felt that stopped me from asking for help when I really needed it. I found a sense of purpose with batyr, and a whole community of wholesome people, where I can help young people who don’t know where to go, and do some good.”

Apart from her work with batyr, Jo is currently running her own club, Raising The Barre,  which is all about “raising the barre” on mental health through dance.

Help batyr continue to reach young people like Jo by donating to our Christmas Appeal today.

If you’re in need of mental health support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.