This project is intended to give a voice to those with experiences with mental illness as this is something that is very close to our hearts. We hope that those who view our work and read the experiences of others will be able to better understand or empathize with people who are affected by mental illness. Now, we hear Jocelyn's story.
My name is Jocelyn Johnson.
I’m 22 years old. I grew up everywhere, but I claim Texas because it’s my favorite. I’ve been married for almost two years. I’m a photographer, my husband is a real estate agent.
I'm the oldest of four. I’m adopted by my Mom, my dad remarried. I do not have contact with my birth mom. She’s kind of crazy. A lot of my issues stem from her.
As a kid I was tough to raise. I have ADHD, so I can’t sit still and I can’t think. I had super bad abandonment issues. Which is weird, because my dad didn’t leave me. I always had somebody. I honestly think there is such a big difference between a mom and a dad and what they can do for you emotionally. My mom left when I was little. I think it all started there.
I have a severe attachment to men. I always had to have a boyfriend, or a guy friend. And I think that stemmed from my dad being the only person that was there. I never had friends that were girls growing up, I didn’t trust girls. I had a really hard time with my Mom. She didn’t have to adopt me or love me like she does, but she did. And I was horrible to her. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized what it was , because a therapist told me I have abandonment issues.
Growing up me and my mom didn’t get along at all. We fought all the time. I was very dramatic. about everything. I felt like if I went to my mom about this, she would just say I was being dramatic. Because I was a very dramatic kid.
I take everything super personally. If I love something, I don’t just love it. I am IN LOVE with it. Like If I find a meal I like I will eat everyday for a month. I don’t know, it just feels safe to me. So I’ll keep doing it. I have always felt super safe with my dad. With my mom growing up it was hard. But now we are best friends, so it worked out.
So it all really started the end of high school. I went to three high schools, my parents moved a lot. Senior year we moved back to Texas. At first I was so mad at my parents because it was my senior year, so I was supposed to do all the fun senior things. But I didn’t have any friends, so it wasn’t a good situation. My mom just kept telling me, theres a reason that you are here.
The first few months were horrible, people probably thought I was so mean. I would just sit in the corner angrily and eat my lunch. I didn’t hate them but I hated that I was there. It was about three months into my senior year, and I just decided in that moment that I’m not going to live anymore. My parents moved me here, its’ horrible. I hate it. I have no friends. My life is over, again with the dramatic. I was like I’m not going to do this anymore. I'm not doing this.
Not to make it all religious but a lot of my life is religious so. I sat next to this girl that was very loud, she kind of annoyed me because she was so loud. She had this huge bag of candy and i had a little box of candy, and I don’t know what came over me but I was like we should share this we should trade, cuz I like yours. I don’t know why I said that looking back I’m like oh gosh, I was trying to make friends what was I doing?!
That girl, Kathy was like yeah lets trade candy. Sure! She’s literally like my best friend in the world now. We started talking about this missionary I was writing and she read his blog and then she came back with a whole notebook full of questions and said answer these for me. and it was random stuff like why do missionaries get up at six and why do you call them elder? And I was like I honestly don’t know the answers to these questions.
It just so happened that Sunday that my family was doing a bishop/youth discussion at our house. I loved when my parents had people over, my parents were super super strict. And my parents have since apologized for some stuff, because I don’t know, they were just very very strict. I was really excited that all these people were coming to our house. I’m very much a people person, so I was stoked. I told Cathy she should come to our house with her notebook and ask them these questions. So she did and was just asking them questions every two seconds. And three months later she got baptized! Which is really cool. And I honestly just completely forgot how I felt the day before. Just being able to help someone and be there for someone on an emotional level. I don’t know I’m kind of a mom in that way. I like being there for someone, I like taking care of people. So it was nice to have somebody who needed me here, so I needed to stay type thing.
Honestly the rest of senior year was so fun and so happy. I wasn’t having any issues. Throughout my life I’ve had months where I wouldn’t want to get out of bed. My mom just thought i was being dramatic, so thats what I thought. I don’t want to get out of bed because I’m tired, or I don’t go to bed on time. Thats why I have zero energy.
When I got to college I went nuts because I had all the freedom in the world, my Mom and Dad weren’t there I could do whatever I wanted. So i went crazy. Then after all that i joined the Navy. It’s a lot of things. I thought that it would be good for me because structure, I do good when I have structure and when i have something I’m in charge of and responsible for. And to an extent it did help, but they aren’t nice in the military. They are mean to you, they say horrible things. And i remember being at bootcamp and just thinking how horrible it was, why am I doing this? But it was nice to be a part of something bigger than me, like being on a team. We were all going through the same thing. So that was cool.
Then I got out of bootcamp and went to tech school. I was going to be a military police officer. While I was there I got super depressed. They kind of exile you from your family. You can’t go home and see your family at all. Which is really hard for me because I’m totally a family person. I could hardly talk to them during the day, because you work from 6 am to 9 pm. So by the time I got back they were in bed so we sent like one text a day to each other.
I think one of the good things about my personality is that I’m super self aware, maybe even too self aware. I’m never surprised when something happens.
So I went to one of our navy chiefs and said I need you to take me to the doctor right now. Like right now. I need to talk to someone. So when you are on suicide watch in a military hospital, they stick you in a room and pull everything out except for the bed. They give you an outfit and tell you to sit on a bed, then they put two guards outside your door. I was like, “Oh gosh, I just wanted to talk to someone. I feel nuts.”
So they decided to send me to a psychiatric hospital. They are a little different. You don’t have your phone, you can’t have the shoelaces in your pants, you can’t have certain soaps. They supply everything so that you can’t do anything crazy. I was there for about 10 days. While I was there the doctors diagnosed me with manic depression, which is similar to bipolar, but its less like happy and sad, but more like depression and anxiety. So its a mix of both. I will get super depressed because I want to be alone. but then I’ll get bad anxiety because I’m alone. My brain doesn’t know what I am at the moment, so I don’t know its crazy.
They gave me a medicine thats for sleep and depression. I was having a hard time sleeping, I was getting one hour of sleep at night. It was horrible I was so tired.
That was a turning point for me finding that out. Because once you know what it is. It explains everything. You think you are crazy, but then it gets explained by a doctor saying 5 words. Then you understand.
After getting on medicine and getting more sleep. They don’t allow people with mental health issues to be in the military. Its a harsh environment. So they separated me from the military, which is basically getting kicked out, haha.
As soon as that happened, my friend said you should talk to my friend Ryan, he just got back from his mission in Texas. You guys would get a long great. And I was like, okay. So I added him on Facebook. He messaged me right away, and now we’re married so.
He really helped me during that last part. Again, I like to have someone who I feel like needs me. So having him needing me was really helpful. It takes like two months to get separated from the military, its not like “k bye.” So eventually they sent me on my way, and that was awesome. It ended up being good for me.
I ended up going to school in Rexburg with Ryan. We kept dating while I was there. I started having my sleeping problem again. So my doctor started me on Adderall, because he felt like it would balance me in a different way. Approaching it from a different angle. He also gave me anxiety medicine for my panic attacks. I started taking Adderall and it was a world of difference.
Ryan and I started doing summer sales together. It was horrible, it gave me the worst anxiety. So I quit after like a week. I would literally be walking to someone's doorstep and I would just turn around and throw up. It was horrible. Ryan kept doing it, and I became a Nanny while I was there. Honestly that summer was amazing, I didn’t have any episodes or anything.
We got engaged, and I’ve never been so happy. I was on an emotional high. Again, attention. A lot of people paying attention to me, it was amazing. Then we got married and it was amazing. The first month was amazing. Then all of a sudden just the worst crash I’ve ever had. I was like, what is happening. I'm married, I’m supposed to be happy. It was honestly horrible. I was sad all the time, I was angry at Ryan just for walking in the door. I was mad, sad all the time, constantly crying over weird things like the dishwasher not washing our bowl all the way. So emotional about everything. I was getting really sick physically as well. Which I feel connects to mental health. I went to the hospital three times.
Then one of my bridesmaids as a wedding gift, gave me a camera and told me to take pictures. It sat in it's box for three weeks and then my photographer friend told me to take my camera and take pictures of her. And I was like okay, and this is the #1 turning point in my life.
It's so silly because its just photography. But we went to take pictures and I was like, I’m obsessed with this. When we went to visit my parents for Christmas, my Mom bought me a 50 mm lens and then thats when I really got into photography.
Honestly ever since then, I have felt like I’m on a high, not a low. Almost like its gone. Which I know its not how it works, but I don’t feel anxiety over things, I’m way more confident in myself. This might be linked to it, but I get a lot more attention from people now because I’m a photographer. Like people will message me and ask me how I do things.
I went full time doing photography, because I didn’t want to do anything other than this.
There’s something crazy about finding the person that you love, finding the thing that you love, being in a place that you love.
Everything is just like in line for me right now, and I’m sure things will change and of course I have bad days. The past three weeks have been horrible. I’ve had a lot of editing to do. So the past three weeks have been weird, and I just want to sit on the couch.
So of course I have my moments where my depression and anxiety take over, but genuinely since I started photography I have felt so much better and I’m around people in love everyday, so how can I not be happy?