NBC10 Boston reporter JC Monahan is opening up about her struggles with depression and anxiety, saying she hopes sharing her experiences might resonate with others who are struggling with their mental health.
In a personal essay in Boston Magazine published Tuesday, Monahan said she felt compelled to speak out about her own experiences after witnessing the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on others’ mental health.
“As we head into a second year of the pandemic, people are depressed, anxious, and thinking about suicide at alarming rates,” Monahan wrote. “And they are killing themselves. This is why for the first time in my life, I want people to know what I’ve been through. This is why I won’t stay silent anymore.”
In the essay, the award-winning reporter describes how she was diagnosed with depression in 2007, but in 2017, she experienced an “emotional downward spiral.”
“I blamed myself for feeling the way I did,” Monahan wrote. “So I didn’t reach out to my friends to share that I was struggling, or that I now had a voice in my head repeating over and over: You’re not worthy and you never will be. I felt like I was drowning in my own thoughts to the point that I could no longer breathe. I was convinced no one would ever understand, so what was the point of telling anyone?”
By 2018, she realized there “were only two paths left to take,” she wrote. “I could keep doing nothing and give up any hope that things might get better, or I could find the courage to believe life could be different for me.”
Monahan said she became determined to make a change. She opened up to her friends and loved ones about what she was going through, which deepened her relationships and made things easier.
“I learned from my experience that people really do want to help — they often just don’t know how,” Monahan wrote. “And they never will if those of us who have been to that dark place don’t start talking about it. If we don’t normalize mental illness, who will?”
“I’d like to say I’ll be happy if my story reaches one person, but I’d be lying,” she continued. “I want this to reach someone, who will then reach out to someone else, who will in turn reach out to someone else. It took me far too long to understand that life depends on connections. It took far too long for this communicator to learn how vital good communication really is.”
In a phone interview with the Globe on Wednesday evening, Monahan said the decision to speak out about what she went through was difficult because she considers herself to be a private person, but that she “couldn’t sit by and listen to people struggling with mental illness and not try to help,” she said.
Monahan recalled a visit to her doctor, who told Monahan that one day she would want to share what she’s been through.
“I looked at her and said ‘there is never going to be a day that I will do that,’ ” Monahan told the Globe. “She was talking to me at a time that I wanted to disappear, so the idea that I would speak publicly was outrageous at the time. But a few years have gone by and I know how hard it is to be in that dark tunnel, and hearing stories of people struggling with mental illness and dying by suicide made me think maybe if I tell people what it feels like it might help people help somebody else.”
The response to the essay has been overwhelming, Monahan said.
“I’m so touched people would take time to send me a message, send what they’re going through, or what someone they know is going through,” she said. “It’s overwhelming to have them share themselves with me, and they’re doing this many times publicly on social media sites. Some aren’t just sending me kind and generous words, they’re doubling down, reposting the link, and encouraging people to read the article. It’s hard to wrap my head around it.”
The essay was also met with an outpouring of support on Twitter, with many in New England media applauding her bravery to speak out about her experience.
“I was convinced no one would ever understand, so what was the point of telling anyone? Depression has the power to distort your reality.”— Caitlin Burchill (@newsyCaitlin) April 7, 2021
It really does. Thank you for articulating this so perfectly @JC_NBCBoston! I’m sorry you’ve struggled too, but TY for now helping SO many! https://t.co/7oFWKcC0Pq