Speaking from experience
TikTok star Julie Mango advocates for mental health
Being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder was by far the hardest pill Juliet Bodley had to swallow. But with the proper treatment, she was able to plant a healthy seed of hope and grow into the sweetness now known as Julie Mango. Now the actress, who has become a popular Jamaican TikTok sensation, is sharing her story of advocating for mental health.
According to the entertainer, borderline personality disorder resembles or encompasses anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicidal ideation, and attempts. It also involves self-mutilation.
Bodley’s relationship with mental health has been one of love and hate. She shared that she went through this state of mental disrepair, not knowing that she had a problem. Not being treated led to a series of suicide attempts as well as unstable relationships with family and friends, even with her employment and her career.
“What people need to understand is that a person trying to commit suicide or committing suicide is not a cry for attention. It’s really the person just thinking that the entire world is better off without him or her. And them thinking that this life is too much,” she shared candidly. After three suicide attempts, she realised that she didn’t have the guts to kill herself. God, she revealed, had something to do with that. She wanted to know what it meant to really live and not have this sinking lump in her heart. There was this great need to break these dangerous cycles, which were causing mental, physical, emotional and financial deterioration.
For Bodley, her suicide attempts only exacerbated her feeling of angst. She notes that you can feel worse after failing at taking your life, so one is caught between a rock and a hard place: there’s no escape. “It feels like you’re stifling, but you never die. That is why therapy is so important for you to heal,” she said. In understanding what was happening to her and treating it accordingly. Bodley stands today on the other side, constantly working to maintain a healthier version of herself. Much is tied to her decision to get therapy.
At first, she thought she could help herself or pray it away and that therapy was a complete waste of time. But all that changed when she discovered a professional who could help beyond the stereotypical questions and answers. Speaking from experience, she had this to say: “What therapy does is it will analyse you and see where you’re at. That will determine a way forward, whether it means going back in the past to thought processes or habits that you have to unlearn or relearning perceptions of situations. It’s a very involved process.” The therapist, she added, will then diagnose if treatment requires medicine or sessions.
Bodley declares that choosing the option of medication will allow the patient to settle down, disengaging overriding or disturbing emotions, so that he or she can absorb the sessions, learn triggers, and manage one’s life. After all, she said, encouraging words and positive reinforcement can’t have an impact on someone who is numb, and there is a weaning process for those who no longer need medication. But, she added, that’s depends on the patient and the therapist and/or psychiatrist to make that happen.
“Currently, I am healing because it is a lifelong journey. I’m managing my illness in the same way you manage HIV, diabetes, or cancer,” she added.
She became a mental advocate for the cause because in her experience, the stigma attached to mental health by some was far worse than the illness itself. That stigma didn’t cause the cutting or suicidal attempts, but it did cause her to live in that state for very long. She felt ashamed, felt condemned, likening herself to a factory fault. She was ostracised by everyone, from classmates to co-workers, especially in the Jamaica Defence Force, which Bodley said is a great place to work but a tough place.
“Society is focused on saying you have to be tough. You shouldn’t feel, emote, or cry, particularly for the men. That could not be further from the truth. The Bible says there’s a time to weep and a time to be joyful. So who are we to say that?”
When Julie Mango posted about her bout with suicidal attempts on social media, she described the reaction as an almost #metoo moment. Some persons retweeted and said they were survivors, too. Others commented or shared direct messages about their direct or indirect experiences. Some drew parallels with her work in comedy. She answered that by pointing out that the most charismatic person could be suffering inside. “Depression does not have a face,” she said.
Her YouTube channel, Mentally Mango, is dedicated to exploring mental advocacy, providing coping tips and guides on navigating the new normal of the pandemic. She was encouraged to fuse mental health with her comedy, but she wanted to separate the two and shed light on mental health. “People are so preoccupied with distractions, like comedy, and that doesn’t prevent anything. It only delays the inevitable — a crash,” she said. She also offers life-coaching services.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ mental health and suicide prevention helpline at 888-NEW-LIFE (639-5433).