Others before me have come forward with their own stories. Lindsay shouted hers from the rooftops, Hannah stepped out of the invisible community of mental illness and made herself visible, and Emma told us the hardest thing she has ever done.
My name is Olivia Case and now it is my turn. I walk out of the darkness and this is my story.
My dad committed suicide when I was two months old. Growing up with this information as a child, I just assumed the same would happen to me. He was my dad. He makes up half of who I am so why would it be any other way. I faced a few periods of depression in high school, but nothing severe enough for me to seek treatment. I graduated high school and was excited to go out of state to college at Midd, although a bit nervous rightfully so.
I’ve always been very shy so college was a difficult environment for me. I made a good number of friends, but there were still some tough times. Early October of my freshman year I went to a party at one of the social houses and was raped for the first time. I hid in a bathroom after, alone and scared, not knowing what my options were. I continued on as if nothing had happened and told no one. Two weeks later I was raped again on Halloween night in my own dorm. Again, I did nothing. I eventually told two close friends from home, but otherwise proceeded normally, denying any effects it had on me.
I slowly started to share my story, anonymously at first, submitting writings to It Happens Here where my story was read three years in a row. Sophomore year I became involved with the Sexual Assault Oversight Committee, in an attempt to help others on campus going through similar struggles. Junior year I continued with the SAOC and also joined It Happens Here. I was surrounded by work regarding sexual assault on campus, which was both exhilarating and exhausting.
Late October of my junior year, I was working with the SAOC to have some posters permanently installed on campus, depicting individuals in our community speaking out against sexual violence. All was well until an interaction I had with one faculty member. When I asked if we could have our poster installed, he refused, stating that the departments in the building had nothing to do with sexual assault. As my shy and vulnerable self, I was crushed by this. All emotions came to the surface; past feelings of depression and anxiety, trauma from the assault, notions of suicide passed down from my dad. And so that night, I attempted suicide. I was lucky enough to have a concerned friend come by and check on me, otherwise I would not be here today.
That was a little over a year ago. Since then I have been in and out of the hospital and back and forth from Midd. I finally acknowledged what had happened to me and began to seek treatment. That October I took a medical leave for the rest of the semester. I came back for one week in January, hoping I was well enough to be back for J-term, but again I found myself making suicide plans, assuring myself that I wouldn’t live past 21, so I left.
It has been a dark road, but slowly I’ve walked out of the darkness and can now see the light ahead of me. The light of a bright future.
My name is Olivia Case. I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety, PTSD and an eating disorder. But I am alive. I am not my disorders. I see a psychologist once or twice a week, attend group therapy each week, see a psychiatrist, a neurologist and an eating disorder specialist. But I also attend class and work at the RPO. I am a friend and a daughter; student and employee. I haven’t considered suicide in nine months now. I haven’t self-harmed in over 200 days. In October I celebrated my half birthday and I celebrated the fact that I survived my attempt one year ago. I am a survivor of rape and suicide, but first and foremost I am a 21 year old who loves life. I am a Psychology major and I commit my life to helping others. I will no longer be the victim. And these are only bits of the millions of parts that make up me, Olivia.
Hearing of Lindsay’s, Hannah’s and Emma’s strength in their stories has convinced me that Middlebury can be a place where mental health issues are no longer taboo; where we don’t feel we have to say “I’m fine,” when we’re not. For every student who has come forward and told their story, there are countless others who fight their own battles. Let us come together and lean on each other because people need other people.
No longer shall we hide. Mental illnesses are real and they are not to be ashamed of. Middlebury students, as exceptional as we are, are not immune. Our suffering is real and all I ask is that you share that suffering. Allow those around to help you and don’t be afraid to ask for help because chances are, they’ve been through their own struggles. I cannot speak for others, but I myself would love to hear bits of who you are and walk alongside each and every one of you who walk through the darkness.