Jenn’s Ugly Duckling story

The ducklings who struggled and the swan that survived
Trigger warning: self-harm, cutting, suicide, alcohol abuse

I honestly don’t know where to begin and I’m certain this is going to be long. I hope that’s all right.

First and foremost, my name is Jenn. As a kid and into my teens, I was always extremely introverted. Shy seemed to be my thing and I have no idea why, now, looking back. I never had trouble making friends. But my group of friends were always extremely small and tightknit.

And outside of school, I never spent time with anyone but my parents and my sister. I was just happier that way. Fortunately, I was never bullied in school. I don’t know if we just didn’t have a lot of that in the school I went to, or if I was just blissfully unaware because of the fact that I so often just kept to myself. If I had to guess, I’d have to go with the latter.

Throughout high school, instead of hanging out with my school friends, outside of school, I spent my afternoons, and nights, and weekends on the internet, in chat rooms, talking to people online. People I didn’t have to see. People I didn’t have to worry were judging me. My self-esteem pretty much sucked, even though I was never given a reason for it to.

I found a community of people and learned about fan fic and “shipping” and realized that there was this whole, seemingly, underground world that I felt like I just fit into without question. In my late teens, I made a friend who I am still friends with to this day. I can officially say that I have known her for over half my life. We’ve visited each other several times over the years and she has continuously been a person I could count on no matter what was going on in my life.

Jenn, ugly duckling story.I spent my last couple of years in high school and even after I graduated, I immersed myself in television shows like Buffy and Roswell. And at some point I even decided that I didn’t want to just read fan fic anymore. I wanted to write my own. I’m not quite sure I ever went through that ‘awkward teenage’ phase that so many teens seem to go through these days. I guess I was a late bloomer. It was during all of this, going into my early 20’s when I started to realize that I was more drawn to the females in these stories. In the TV shows that I was watching. And I began to see that there was a reason I never wanted a boyfriend and felt completely put off by the one that I dated in my late teens.

It was my friend who helped me realize that whatever was going on with me was okay. That no matter what, she supported me and loved me. And come to find out, I was lucky all the way around. I found myself occasionally making comments about girls here and there and I never had to officially ‘come out’ to my parents. Unfortunately not everyone is lucky and for that my heart truly aches.

But. Even with all the support, albeit silent, I still found myself struggling with day to day things. Like simply being happy. Through most of my 20’s I struggled with depression and the only time I ever felt okay was when I would dig into my shows and lose myself in this somewhat ‘underground’ world of fanfiction and fairytales. It was my way to hide. But it wasn’t a way to heal.

My little sister, four years younger than me, was a little bit more social than I was. We didn’t have a whole lot in common, but at the end of the day… she was my sister and my best friend, and I couldn’t tell you a time when we were *ever* at odds with each other.

We always had each others backs. Whether it was silently, or by spending time with each other. Our parents split up around when I was 21 and my sister, 16 going on 17. It was around that time I noticed that she had started to hide herself away like I had been doing all my life. I knew she was depressed. But so was I. Regardless… we battled it out together.

That’s what sisters are for, right?

And soon I found out that like me, she liked to lose herself in fictional worlds as well. It’s always been such a great escape. She watched the same shows I watched and loved them just as much as I did. She enjoyed reading books as well. She hid things so well that I can only assume that it was her way of taking a mental vacation from life…

For the next several years, we did everything together. She was there for me through my first big break up, and I was there for her through hers. Though… some days, now, I wonder if I truly was.

We both knew the other was struggling, but we always seemed to keep each other afloat. And please understand… we have the best parents any kids could ask for. They were never once a factor in any of the issues that either of us had. Even through their separation.

I realize that a large part of the Ugly Duckling society is based on anti-bullying and self-esteem and whatnot… but I think there is a form of bullying that a lot of people don’t even consider or realize exists.

It’s something I guess I would call “Self-Bullying”.

When you’re depressed, you continually beat yourself up and find or make up this grand amount of things that you think are *wrong* with you -or about you-, and you just sit on them. And you soak them up, and you beat them into your head, all the while fighting with that small voice still inside there that tells you that none of what you’re feeling or thinking is true.

It was in 2007 when I realized that things in my sister’s life were beginning to spiral out of control. She started drinking. A lot. She would drink to the point of not knowing who she was or where she was. She would have what I can only think of as panic attacks and black outs.

She would fight me and cry and say she wanted to die. I can remember a night we went out with a few friends and before any of us knew what had happened, she had drank so much she was nearly passed out. But then the rage came out and it reached the point where we had to actually lock her *inside* a vehicle until she calmed down. You see…she was so out of it that she had no idea that she could get out. Later that year, I found out she had been self-harming. Cutting. And not just small cuts. Horrific, huge cuts on her legs, in places where no one could see. But one night in late October, I got a call from her and through all the screaming and crying and freaking out, I managed to realize that she had cut her wrist and gone too deep.

I would apologize for the graphic visual… but I’m not really sure that I want to. So many people are suffering with this form of depression and self-harm and self-bullying that… if I tell my story and it makes a difference in at least one person’s life that’s all that matters to me.

We managed to get her help. But sometimes “help” isn’t exactly help. She was committed for three days and released, because she convinced the doctors that she was fine and under the pretense that she would see a therapist and take medication to try to balance things out. For the next few months, she seemed to be feeling better. Kind of getting back to her old self. The little sister I remembered. She was even living with me by then, and seemed to want to get back on her feet.

February 12, 2008. I was at work, and got a call from my dad. My little sister, Nicole, had hung herself from our front porch.

From that day on… my life has been forever changed. My outlook on life has changed. My outlook on people… has changed. I talk about her whenever I can, to whoever will listen.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many people are there for you… but sometimes hearing someone else’s story… is all it can take to make someone change their mind.

In the following couple of years, I dealt with an extremely mentally abusive relationship. One which I suppose could have been avoided, had I just walked away. But I was so desperate to hold on and terrified of losing someone else that I just kept fighting.

Nicole. Jenn's sister

Nicole

But through all that… from the day I lost my sister… I made a friend. Someone who I had actually gone to school with my entire life. But we never knew each other until that day. She stuck by me. Kept me afloat. Kept me… sane. And eventually, was there for me when I finally broke free of that bad relationship I’d let myself sink into. And somewhere in the year or so that we were friends, we fell in love.

She brought me back from that edge I was always constantly on. She supported me when I started seeing a therapist and taking medication for depression of my own. In our time together, I even managed to wean myself off of therapy and the need for medication. Though, looking back now, I’m not sure was the best idea. I honestly think that some people need one or the other or both to function at full capacity. Sometimes for life.

She and I were together almost 3 years. For the past 8 and a half months we’ve been separated. She is still my best friend and someone who I believe would be there for me at the drop of a hat, should the moment of need arise. But… for the past 8 and a half months, my head has been an emotional rollercoaster.

And there was a time or two when I thought to myself that my little sister got it right and that I was stuck here because she was gone. I blamed her for taking my option away. My option to take my own life. And I reasoned with myself that the only reason I couldn’t follow her lead was because I had seen what losing her put my parents through and I knew…it wasn’t an option. I’m not sure my parents would have survived losing me too.

And with that… though I know my story has been extremely long winded and detailed, I’m finally reaching my point. In the past 8 and a half months, somewhere in there, I discovered an outlet. That thing that seemed to save me so long ago. An amazing TV show to lose myself in, fan fiction to read and the will to write again. Though I’m no longer writing fan fiction, but instead, actually working on writing a book.

I know some might think it’s farfetched to accredit a simple television show…it’s characters…and the actors who play them. But to a person who is surviving because of said show(s), it makes complete and absolute sense.

I discovered Once Upon A Time and instantly, I was in love! I felt myself being happy again. Having something to look forward to. Something to invest my time in. Its amazing actors like Jennifer Morrison and Lana Parilla and Ginnifer Goodwin who bring these characters to life. Who give you a little piece of their selves in those characters, and a little something that anyone or everyone can relate to.

Everyone has demons… just as the Evil Queen. Everyone has been damaged in some way… just like Regina. And sometimes good people do bad things. They just need someone to see that there’s still some good in there somewhere. Because you know… even though a bully is a bully that bully acts this way for a reason. And even though it’s no excuse, that bully is dealing with something of their own as well.

And just as much as everyone wants a Savior, I believe everyone *deserves* a Savior…

Sincerely…with *much* love and respect…

– Jenn (@JLeigh1780)

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9 thoughts on “Jenn’s Ugly Duckling story

  1. Pingback: The moment after a loved one commits suicide | The Ugly Ducklings

  2. Pingback: She Misses Her Sister, And Wants You To Know Something | The Ugly Ducklings

  3. Pingback: A woman that inspires Jenn | The Ugly Ducklings

  4. Wow, I read Part 1 and to be honest, I didn’t expect things to go this way. From how you wrote about your sister, I fell in love with her too. Maybe it was because your sister reminds me a lot of my little brother, who is well my best friend. I spend most of my life with him, and I thought of him when you talked about your sister because I can tell you loved her a lot and she was almost your whole world. Then I read Part 2 and she…the worst part is that this isn’t some stupid fanfic or story someone created because it was in there head, this isn’t fiction, and I wish I could bring her back like I sometimes do when a character dies and you think this isn’t fair, but it’s all a story and you can make the story the way you want it by easily going back and making things happen differently. Heh, if only real life was that way.
    I can never imagine what I would do with my little brother, if I lost him. We’re going through stuff right now, it’s a little different from yours but my constant thought is growing up sucks, because you start realizing the reality of everything when you really just wanna enjoy yourself. My brother is going through depression like me, but I always thought he was doing better then me. He seemed so strong, and sometimes I’m really envious of him. But you know your story really scares me. I haven’t really been having my brother’s back lately or my mom. All I feel is anger towards my family, because I feel like I’m in a cage when it comes to them. But there’s a little voice in my head telling me I got to pay attention and that my family needs help, especially my brother and my parents.
    I’m sorry for what happened to your sister, and what happened to you. For a person who keeps to herself like you do and lets only few people in losing that one person, especially that sibling who you knew almost your whole life and practically raised, I’d fall apart too and I’d wanna cling on anybody just to help me get up again. God, I don’t know what I’d do without my brother. I feel like crying.
    I hope writing that book of yours helps you in your journey of self-discovery and to helps you with your grief. Oh and if I were you I’d continue going to the therapist. I’ve been recently contemplating whether I should stop going to my recent therapist, but you know even if it doesn’t seem like it, therapy does help, and it’s nice to have that crutch, not on the therapist but on yourself. I guess it’s always good to have someone to talk to. And writing also helps like I mentioned. I hope that book help you in everything your going through.
    Ugh I don’t know what else to say except this that I deleted because I keep rewriting my sentences. So much emotion heh. I hope you end up the hero in your own book. That you end up with a happily ever after. Because you know your a very strong person and one who has a special understanding in life I wish I had. What you just shared has taught me much! Thank you so much for sharing you wisdom and your story! You are going to be a great writer someday!

    All the best girl!
    Fatima <3

    P.S Please Please tell us when your book finally ends up published and released I AM SO BUYING IT!!! xD!!
    ya okay bye now :)

    • Fatima… wow. Okay… so *your* post made *me* cry. lol It might take me a minute to get all this out…but there are so many things that you said, that hit home. It’s true my sister and I were close. But it’s weird because we were the kind of close that…we didn’t always have to “talk” to “get” each other. And you’re right…sometimes, you read a story and it feels like just that. A story. And in a way it is…but unfortunately, life is not a story we can *go back* and change! Sometimes…I don’t even think we truly have control of the future. All we can do is be our best selves and ALWAYS about all else, be kind to others because no one can EVER know what another individual is going through, unless they tell you.

      The first sentence in your second paragraph is the one that brought the tears to my eyes. For my birthday, the October before she died and before she did the cutting of her wrist, Nicole had given me a birthday present. It’s a large photo frame that holds four pictures and each one she chose, was us as kids, together. And she decorated it with scrapbooking things that said “sisters” and stuff like that. All very sentimental. It’s the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten… The night before she died, before I left to go stay the night at my (now ex) gf’s house…I remember, I was sitting in my bedroom at my computer desk and I had my feet kicked up on the desk with my laptop in my lap. But I was looking at the picture hanging on the wall right there in front of me. I just stared at it for what seemed like forever. And I remember thinking “I don’t know what I’ll do without her.” Not “I don’t know what I’D do without her.”, but “I don’t know what I WILL do without her.” It was like I just KNEW that I was going to lose her. I didn’t have a clue then…in that moment…but in the following days…so many things came rushing back to me. Like when I left the house. Walking out the door, I turned around and she was sitting on the couch and I asked “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay home?” and she told me she was fine and to go. So I told her I loved her and I left. When I woke up the next morning…my phone…which had been ON THE CHARGER all night…was dead. I unplugged it from the charger and my phone was completely dead.

      I charged it in my car all the way to work, so that I would have some service. But how in the hell does a charging phone, DIE on the charger?? Luckily I had enough battery for my dad to make that call to me around 10 a.m. But I panicked for days, wondering if she had tried to call me or contact me in some way. But once we got her phone back…there were no calls. She just…left us. There was a person she HAD contacted and told what she was going to do…but that person failed to take her seriously. I don’t care how many times someone threatens…it should always be taken seriously. Because whether they are serious or not about ending their life…there IS *something* they are serious about. And that’s needing someone to help them.

      At the end of the day…all you can do is be there and reinforce that knowledge as frequently as possible. And what a suffering person needs most…is freedom. Freedom is something that, while seems so simple, is something that is extremely hard to truly give. And sometimes I look back and want to kick myself, but I know it wouldn’t change the course of things. But I *did* tell my sister that if the pain was too much to bear…if she felt that she just couldn’t handle living in this world anymore…I wanted her to know that she would be missed more than she would ever know, but that ultimately, the choice to stay or go was hers. Four months later, she was gone. As clichéd as it sounds, the saying is more than true. Suicide is a very permanent solution to a temporary problem. All one needs is someone to help them find the light…

      If you are worried about your family…all you can do is be there for them. And you don’t have to be the strong one all the time. It’s okay to NOT be the strong one all the time. But if you know in your head and in your heart, that you want to live. That you want your family to live… Please…just keep pressing forward and reminding yourself AND THEM that tomorrow is always a new day. For new possibilities. A chance for change and happiness. :) My email address is fight_2thedeath@yahoo.com and my twitter info is @jleigh1780 and my fb info is https://www.facebook.com/jenn.johnson.5811 !!

      As for my book…I am a hopeful romantic at heart. I love to read all kinds of genres. But when it comes to writing, I love writing good old fashioned “girl meets girl”. lol If I ever get it finished…The Ugly Ducklings will be the first place I share the info!! lol Trust me when I say that I am no hero…but if my story…my life lessons…help make a difference in someone else’s life, that’s all that matters to me!

      I do wish you all the best! And Much Love!

      Jenn

  5. I know Jenn personally. I already thought a lot of her and then to read her story…….. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of respect gained from seeing she is sharing this. I am a strong believer in getting the word out about life experiences in the hopes of helping others “deal”. I feel that we go through these things in order to help others. You are an amazing person and I am proud to call you my friend!

    • Thank you Erica…for the kind words and more importantly, for taking the time to check out The Ugly Ducklings! This group of people have become quite great friends and its because of their encouragement that I felt I was able to sit down and put that all into words! I know we don’t know each other all that well, but I would still call you a friend any day! And I know that you have been through some things in your life as well…so just so you know, I am here if you ever need an ear. And I believe I can speak for the Ugly Ducklings when I say that they are all here for you as well! ;) Much Love Erica! ;) Take care always!!!

  6. Thank you for this deeply courageous story. You are an incredible survivor and inspiration! Please be proud of your voice and keep sharing your story—I don’t think you can ever comprehend how many lives you’ll touch. Many blessings to you <3

    • Thank *you* Diane, for taking the time to read it and also to share your kind words. I don’t think of mysekf as special in any way. I’m just me, getting by each day, thanks to the friends and family I have in my life. But…but sharing a little piece of what I’ve been through, I could only *hope* to make a difference in at least one persons life.

      I hope that anyone who reads my story knows they are always more than welcome to come to me if they ever need to talk or just want to share something of their own. Without the Ugly Ducklings, I might not have ever found a place to give voice to the words and stories trapped in my head. I appreciate them and ALL the other Ugly Ducklings out there! More than they know! :)

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