In Madison’s own words:
Ambassador Essay: By Madison Asbury
At one point or another, everyone experiences bullying. Whether it’s at school, at work, or even at home, it happens to everyone. When I was in middle school, I struggled to fit in, which made me a very easy target for bullying. I was learning how to do my makeup, what I wanted my style to be, and what kind of a person I wanted to be too. Although middle school is a rough transition for everyone, my struggle to find myself made it very tough for me. I was often teased for being heavier, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t quite fit in. I was often excluded from activities with classmates in and outside of school. This bullying I experienced at an early age contributed to my low self-esteem that follows me even to this day. Nobody likes to feel like an outsider, and that was how I felt for most of my teen years.
Although my transition to middle school was rough, my transition to high school was even worse. I moved to a new city half way through 8th grade, and when I started high school, I barely knew anyone. During my freshman year, I turned to self-harm quite often. I was inflicting pain on myself as well as being self-destructive by drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and not taking care of my body. For a very long time I felt that self-harm was the only way to release the sadness I had inside of me, it made me feel something when all I felt was numbness. Eventually my parents found out that I was hurting myself, and they took me to get help. Although I still struggle with it sometimes, I can say with confidence that I have recovered. I try and find healthier ways to deal with my sadness, like working out.
While I was self-harming, I would often have suicidal thoughts. I felt completely alone, like no one cared if I was alive or not. I would struggle to even get out of bed in the morning because of how worthless and emotionally exhausted I felt. There was one day that I was very close to swallowing some pills. But as I sat there, I realized that I was utterly terrified to do it. The thought of my parents, friends, teachers, etc., having to go through the pain of losing me was enough to make me decide it wasn’t worth it. On my low days, I do still struggle with suicidal thoughts. However, I am so glad that I didn’t make the decision to take my own life because of who I am and the things I have accomplished after recovering.
I began taking anti-anxiety medication when I was about 9 or 10. From a very early age, it was clear to me that I wasn’t like other children. I am very emotional, and can go from very happy to very sad in a short amount of time. I took the medication on and off for a few years, but it wasn’t until after my parents found out I was self-harming that I went back to medication. At this point, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I got on a new medication, one made specifically for depression. Once I felt better, I stopped taking the meds. But once I got to college, I started suffering from extreme mood swings after leaving my 2-year high school relationship behind. It was very hard for me to be alone, and my mental illnesses came back stronger than ever. I am now taking medication again. The moral of the story: even if you don’t ‘feel’ like you need medication, it can really help you in the long run to keep taking them.
I heard about The Peyton Heart project from a crochet heart I found at work. I worked for Target at the time, and I found one hanging from a peg in an aisle. It had a very inspiring message on it, and I felt like it was some sort of ‘sign’ or something. I was having a rough time, and it made me feel very inspired. And then I found another one. They are very sweet and simple reminders that you should take time to love yourself, and that you are capable of anything!
The Peyton Heart project is important to me because I think everyone needs little reminders every once in a while, that they are amazing. I have struggled a lot with mental illness and self-harm, and I think everyone deserves to feel like they have someone, that they’re not alone. Even a heart from a stranger can make you feel like someone is looking out for you. Mental illness is not talked about enough in our culture. Projects like The Peyton Heart Project make it easier to talk about mental illness, and opens up a conversation for those who are struggling to seek help. I want to be a Peyton Heart Project ambassador because I think if I could make one person feel the way I did when I found those hearts, that would be incredible. Those two simple messages made my day so much better, and I still have them on my desk, even though I found them almost 6 months ago. I want to give something to someone that I didn’t have when I was struggling with suicidal thoughts and self-harm, a way to reach out or connect with someone who has felt the same way in the past. Mental illness is often overlooked, and when suicides happen, they often could have been prevented if someone had reached out for help. Feeling no joy in life is a horrible way to live. I want to help change lives for the better.
I want to implement some key ideas around my campus. One thing that is overlooked quite often in college is the stress and anxiety of how tough classes can be. You move to an unfamiliar environment where you hardly know anyone, you are living on your own, and you are taking classes that are much harder. I want to raise awareness at school to show students that they are not alone, and that mental health and self-care is something that everyone needs, especially in highly stressful situations like finals week. This stress and anxiety can lead to depression and even suicide. My school already has some mental health resources too, and I want to make sure all students know how they can get help. I want to start a conversation and leave a lasting impact at my school.