JC Monahan: Breaking My Silence

Psychological Wellness

For several decades, NBC Boston anchor JC Monahan experienced a secret—and preserving it just about charge her all the things.


Image by Webb Chappell

I could hear their voices, soft and muffled. I couldn’t make out what they were being saying. Ultimately, they grew louder. Two, it’s possible 3 male voices? They were being in my house. They were being speaking about me. I tried out to open my eyes, but for some rationale I couldn’t. It felt like I was battling in opposition to a present-day striving to pull me under. Then I read the word that rocked me back into emphasis: Narcan.

Two paramedics ended up standing around me, discussing irrespective of whether I required the lifesaving nasal spray. To my still left, a friend was kneeling on my residing room flooring counting the capsules remaining inside the minor orange bottle. His hands ended up shaking. Which is the last point I remember just before waking up in the emergency room.

The paramedics didn’t give me Narcan I was monitored in the medical center when I slept off the pills’ results and was physically alright. But my secret was out.

I experienced been struggling in silence for much more than a 12 months, very first from despair and then from debilitating anxiety. Yet I informed nearly no one—not my household, not even the people I take into consideration my most effective good friends. The 1 man or woman in Boston who was aware that something was up did not know the half of it until finally he identified me that early morning unconscious in my residing area.

There is a selected irony to how closed off I’d been. Right after all, I’d put in the past 25 yrs in broadcast news. My work is to converse: It is what I enjoy to do. But pay attention to myself converse about my individual feelings? That held no curiosity for me. Rather, I place myself in an emotional quarantine—and it could have cost me my life.

What saved me was mastering to open up about what I was likely by way of with the men and women I cherished. Nonetheless, I never ever required to share this story past my circle of mates and relatives. I hardly ever wished to do exactly what I am performing right now: tell my tale to all of Boston. As a journalist, I have witnessed the toughness it takes for people today to sit down with me during what may be the most tough or emotional second of their lifestyle. They have confidence in that I will handle their text with dignity and respect, an honor I guard fiercely. But I have in no way preferred to tell my personal story.

The pandemic improved that. I watched how individuals ended up compelled into isolation, lower off from their guidance methods, informed to continue to be dwelling and continue to be away from a person a different. I realized firsthand the affect this can have on a person. I experienced currently been there and back.

As we head into a next year of the pandemic, folks are depressed, nervous, and pondering about suicide at alarming rates. And they are killing by themselves. This is why for the very first time in my existence, I want people to know what I have been by. This is why I will not stay silent any more.

I was identified with depression in 2007, a year soon after obtaining my 1st youngster. It took far also extended for me to get support. It wasn’t until eventually the put up-newborn blues lingered and I identified it not possible to be the kind of mother I desired to be that I commenced observing a psychiatrist. For the duration of classes used in her dimly lit residence business, I uncovered that depression experienced been with me very long just before the infant arrived.

I was dedicated to having nicely, understanding my daughter depended on me. I took on this new challenge like I do most things: headstrong and determined. In excess of time, with therapy and an antidepressant, I felt much more like myself. I experienced one more toddler, and I was succeeding in my job. It’s not that my despair disappeared—it’s a sickness you have to manage—but I was executing well. Lifestyle was fantastic.

Then, in 2017, my psychological downward spiral began. I built two key conclusions: I filed for divorce just after a lot more than 15 years of marriage and signed off at WCVB, the spot that experienced formed my occupation considering the fact that 2001. Shortly following, I took a position at NBC Boston. I knew upending these two mainstays in my life would be a spectacular improve, but I had no thought just how much of a single.

Sharing custody of my little ones with my ex-husband meant I used a good deal of time on my possess, and way too much time in my head. That was a hazardous put for a person like me, who had an harmful expectation of perfection. Absolutely nothing I did was ever fantastic more than enough. Now, I experienced a good deal of time to replay and dissect every single alternative I’d ever designed and rely all the issues. I may as nicely have despatched an engraved invitation welcoming depression back again. I was definitely leaving the door extensive open with all of my destructive self-talk.

I also moved several occasions, just about every time boxing up items of my lifetime only to unpack them again, a procedure I observed emotionally draining. I’m sentimental, so I have saved a large amount of things in excess of the decades, and packing was like staying pressured to observe an episode of This Is Your Lifestyle for days on stop. Images, letters, previous pointe footwear, my daughter’s candle from her baptism, the swan-boat figurine my mom’s very best mate gave to me suitable prior to she passed absent. It all had to be shoved into packing containers.

In the course of this period, I was also stowing absent my thoughts, packing them tightly up within me. I did not glimpse at what was occurring to me as a condition, the way my father did with his diabetic issues. I blamed myself for sensation the way I did. So I did not achieve out to my friends to share that I was struggling, or that I now had a voice in my head repeating in excess of and over: You are not deserving and you never ever will be. I felt like I was drowning in my own feelings to the point that I could no lengthier breathe. I was confident no a single would ever understand, so what was the level of telling any person? Depression has the electric power to distort your actuality. I really considered no 1 cared, regardless of obtaining supportive pals and family. But the idea of sharing my inner thoughts felt like burdening the folks I cherished. So I stayed silent.

Around the following a number of months, my depression took command of my life—only this time it was not the only point. I went to my health practitioner 1 working day when I located myself not able to cease crying. I had assumed this was a new symptom of depression that I hadn’t expert right before. Alternatively, my health practitioner instructed me that I was also suffering from stress and anxiety and gave me a prescription for Xanax to enable tame my thoughts when it went into overdrive. This was on major of the meds I was presently using for melancholy. I keep in mind the working day I was packing for my yearly Fourth of July excursion to New Hampshire and realized that I had much more medicines than makeup. I needed a second toiletry bag just to accommodate all of those people small bottles with the white security caps.

Shortly, my psychological stress started off leading to intense bodily pain. At the time, I didn’t know what introduced it on, and I didn’t care. I just concentrated on acquiring as a result of each individual day. So what if my tummy harm so a lot I couldn’t stand up straight, I instructed myself. There was no a single to see me crawl into the shower, so what did it issue? This was concerning me, myself, and I, and none of us would acknowledge a little something was erroneous. Simply plaster on a smile and head out for the working day. But my endeavor to disguise my actuality did not very last very long.

I shortly acquired my ache was the result of acquiring ulcerative colitis. I’d been identified with the disease a several years previously but it was in essence dormant and never ever actually bothered me. As it happens, anxiety brings about it to flare up, and gentleman did it flare up. The force around my stomach was debilitating. Every single working day I struggled to come across an outfit that would seem very good on air but wasn’t tight around my bloated belly. It was not a enjoyable way to commence the working day and undoubtedly did not help me sense far better about myself.

One particular of my greatest joys was ending get the job done and going home to curl up in the fetal posture right until morning. The challenge was that involving the bodily suffering and the frequent churning of my mind, I couldn’t sleep. At the very least not without some enable.

I felt like I was drowning in my have feelings to the point that I could no more time breathe.

When my doctor very first prescribed Xanax for my nervousness, I was unsure how it would have an impact on me. Turns out, it made me sleepy, and that was the greatest reward I could have gained. Using Xanax soon grew to become the only way I could relaxation.

Around time, I naturally created up a tolerance. At initial, it was just one or two supplements additional than prescribed. Sooner or later, I just stopped counting. A number of extra? A handful? Whatsoever it took to silence the negativity in my head so I could snooze extensive sufficient to have the energy to get by means of the future day.

It in no way transpired to me that this could develop into a challenge. I was in survival manner and absolutely nothing is obvious when you’re in survival method, even when you are plainly going for walks a unsafe path. I was utilizing any shortcut important to prove to myself I could manage almost everything on my personal.

One evening, I still left the Xanax bottle by my mattress. Evidently, I took a lot more pills throughout the night—I do not remember doing it. By early morning, although, my close friend identified as, listened to me failing to seem coherent, and knew a thing was wrong. She alerted yet another good friend, who rushed to my house and attempted to wake me up, with small accomplishment. That was when he named the paramedics. I wasn’t hoping to harm myself—I only wished to sleep—but I could have died.

Right after returning property from the ER, I experienced to action again from function and target on obtaining improved. The ulcerative colitis flare-up forced me to make some alterations, together with setting up a new diet program. You could say my culinary repertoire has generally been confined. Give me some bread, cheese, crackers, and a handful of peanuts, and I have the fantastic 4-course food. Thankfully, the diet’s checklist of authorized foodstuff involved cheddar cheese and gluten-no cost crackers—I would not starve.

The real struggle, even though, was the “self-care” approved by my medical doctor. Consider walks, she said, enjoy motion pictures, read a e-book. I thought the tips was nonsense. I imagined managing into a coworker whilst I was out performing one particular of these seemingly frivolous things, seeking fully healthy even with being on limited-time period disability. What would they imagine? There have been no noticeable symptoms to demonstrate that I was unwell. I determined that if I was well plenty of to go away the property then I was nicely plenty of to perform. It didn’t acquire extensive for me to slip again into my outdated undesirable habits: harmful meals, very poor self-care, and, most of all, refusing to request for support.

You would imagine remaining forced out of do the job for nearly two months, or as I get in touch with it, the Crash of 2018, would have been the final wake-up connect with. But I’m the style of individual who, when my alarm goes off right before I am ready to get up, hits snooze with hopes of keeping away from the inevitable. I did the similar thing with my psychological health and fitness right up until the unavoidable transpired: I hit rock base.

This time, it was not Xanax that set me in hazard. I stopped abusing that the day I woke up in the ER and realized my desperation to verify I could take care of it all could have built me lose it all. This time, despair was in total handle. It was scarier than ahead of since I was informed of what I was executing. Or what I was not executing: I wasn’t getting out of mattress. I was not answering the telephone. I was not having. These were not possibilities I was making. Melancholy produced the decisions for me. I imagined I could possibly be damaged for great.

The day arrived when I realized there were being only two paths left to take. I could preserve undertaking practically nothing and give up any hope that issues may well get much better, or I could locate the courage to believe everyday living could be unique for me. In a break up 2nd of clarity, I built my choice, literally jumping off the sofa and racing around to my therapist’s workplace. I was not likely to wait around a further instant to uncover out if it was actually achievable for things to improve.

All over my daily life, at the time I make your mind up to do something, there’s tiny that can quit me. After the Boston Marathon bombings, for instance, I bought mad. Really mad. I mentioned then and there that I would be at the adhering to year’s starting line with a racer’s bib and my sneakers on—despite the fact I’d in no way operate a day in my life. I detest running, in fact. But I educated and I concluded the race. Following so several decades of struggling with despair, I understood it was time to concentrate that resolve on myself.

It was apparent that I could not battle the sickness on your own, although: I wanted a help program. For the very first time, I achieved out to my closest friends, inviting them around or conference them for dinner. They’re applied to observing me all glammed up, putting on heels created for trend, not operate. But this time I was going to let the way I looked mirror how I felt. So I took off the makeup and fake eyelashes, washed off the spray tan, and put the metaphorical mess beneath on full display screen.

I informed them I experienced depression. I discussed how it affected me, that how I truly feel is not generally a alternative. I just can’t simply just snap out of it even with what well-meaning men and women may perhaps think. I realized my good friends would be supportive in the minute. What I didn’t know was no matter whether they’d stick all-around for the long haul as soon as I opened up. But they did, and then some: Numerous buddies shared extra of them selves with me than at any time before. Open communication crafted belief, and as a result, our associations deepened. I now had a crew to lean on when I desired to. I did not experience like a load any longer. All the things felt a little bit simpler following that. Not quick. Just easier.

By the time the pandemic strike, I experienced the capabilities and help I required to be by yourself without slipping into darkness. I had used the earlier two several years studying which equipment worked for me, and most significant, I had the assistance of my close circle of friends. I marveled at the electrical power these connections experienced in my life.

Not only was quarantine manageable, it actually served me choose self-treatment seriously. What experienced once felt indulgent and self-centered was easier when there had been fewer ways to fill the working day. The reality was, generating time for myself was just as efficient, and just as important, as any other treatment method. Accepting that easy truth enabled me to allow go of the items I could not regulate. I mentioned goodbye to folks who would relatively judge me than realize me. It took time, but I came to settle for my blunders. I approved that when I was not where I believed I’d be at this issue in my daily life, I was basically exactly wherever I needed to be.

Then it struck me: What would have transpired if the pandemic hit just when my melancholy was spiraling out of management? How would I have managed the isolation and restrictions? In my darkest days, I nonetheless experienced to go to perform and be a mother, a daughter, a pal. But during a pandemic, we’re instructed to stay home. It is a authorization slip to disguise from the environment. On your own, you can drown in your issues with no everyone noticing. On your own, there’s no just one to seem into your eyes and know the light is long gone.

Stories of individuals dying by suicide through the pandemic seemed to be just about everywhere, which include very shut to household. I watched as my buddies experimented with to system the information that a beloved colleague of theirs experienced killed himself. It wasn’t just the pain of the reduction. They were being searching to have an understanding of why somebody so profitable, so loving, surrounded by folks who cared and highly regarded him, could be in that a lot suffering. That was the moment I realized I was prepared to talk up. It felt improper not to.

I figured out from my expertise that men and women definitely do want to help—they typically just never know how. And they in no way will if all those of us who have been to that dark location do not commence speaking about it. If we never normalize mental illness, who will? For those asking yourself how they can assist anyone they imagine is struggling, the remedy is: Just be there, even if you do not fully grasp how or why it aids. Inquire how they are and permit them know you are prepared to listen. Really don’t acquire it personally if your efforts are rejected. Just stand by them. You cannot fix them. Melancholy is a sickness and requirements cure. But your existence matters.

My closest close friends don’t stay in the vicinity of me, but they still supported me with texts and calls. Voicemails when I would not respond to. Messages that I could replay when I essential to hear a loving voice. They in no way permit up, no matter how many instances I tried out to push them away.

I’d like to say I’ll be delighted if my tale reaches just one particular person, but I’d be lying. I want this to get to someone, who will then achieve out to another person else, who will in flip access out to someone else. It took me significantly much too prolonged to understand that life is dependent on connections. It took far way too extensive for this communicator to discover how critical great conversation truly is.

If you or a liked one is encountering thoughts of suicide, contact the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Amelia J. Bell

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