By Sierra Sizemore
Chemical imbalances are to blame for mental health disorders and play a role in the lives of many Americans.
In a private study conducted through a Facebook poll, 88 of the 100 voters admitted to either dealing with mental health disorders personally or knowing someone who had. Olivia Lockwood has an unexpected story in regards to the paralyzing effects of depression.
Lockwood has dealt with a rollercoaster of emotions. From college dropout to a cross-country move, to landing her dream job.
“Dropping out of college is probably the best thing I’ve ever done for myself,” Lockwood said.
Lockwood is one of more than 300 million people in the world who suffer from the often debilitating mental illness. Even as a young child she fought against negative thoughts. From the time Lockwood was 5, she had been trying to meet the impossible expectations of peers and family.
“My whole life I’ve had some kind of depression issue,” Lockwood said. “I remember when I used to horseback ride and before a show I would always tell myself that I was gonna lose, that I was gonna do bad, you know all this negative stuff about myself. So then I’d prepared myself for the worst and the outcome was always better than what I’d prepared myself for. It was a lot of mental games even as a kid. I mean, I was probably 5 or 6 when I did that to myself.”
A 5-year-old performing reverse psychology on herself is not only brilliant, but almost tragic. She was so used to disappointment that she felt it necessary to set herself up for success with low expectations; the opposite of her peers and family.
She tells of times kids would make fun of her appearance in middle school and the aftermath of her mental health when she stepped off the bus to walk home. This made the decision to move with her mother to Oklahoma following her parents’ divorce.
She left Poughquag, New York in September of 2013 and drove to Oklahoma to start fresh. A new life away from the torment and misery.
Lockwood started school at Madison Middle School in Bartlesville and was immediately adopted by a group of friends. They ‘took her under their wings’, so to speak, and they helped her adjust to her new routine. Jasmine Tate, a former classmate and longtime friend, paints a picture of her friendship with Lockwood.
“She’s always been very bubbly and people liked her pretty well, I think,” Tate said. “She’s had some things happen with other girls at BHS (Bartlesville High School) where they would make fun of her nose or call her names. She just gave it right back to them, but I think that was kind of the stepping stone for all the issues she has now.”
The kind of taunting she endured in her hometown did not end once she crossed the state lines. Bullying is a prominent issue among 12 to 18-year-olds in the U.S. The ways kids connect to their peers during their school years is important to the development of healthy coping mechanisms later in life.
“To be honest, I don’t think she has found a coping method that will work for her,” Tate said. “She just holds it all in until she explodes. I’ll have seen her the day before and the next day she’ll be at my doorstep bawling.”
What is taught or learned before high-school graduation is imperative to the problem-solving skills of a highly functioning adult. Lockwood has developed these skills slower than others, but she has always been determined to find her way out of the dark.
In August preceding her high-school graduation, she moved to Edmond to attend the University of Central Oklahoma. It was seemingly another escape route in which she did not find her peace. More often than not, she was found in her room sleeping or avoiding the stresses that come with the pursuit of higher education. After some consideration and more emotional distress, she decided to transfer to the University of Oklahoma.
Lockwood went to OU with the intention of pursuing a career in marketing only to conclude that she didn’t know what she wanted to do in the future. After a lot of questionable days and changing her major multiple times, she dropped out of college entirely.
“I was already miserable,” Lockwood said. “But I didn’t want to pay for college with no guarantee that I would even pass my classes and because I didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do, you know?”
She moved back to Bartlesville and took the next year to focus on her mental health. She expected a year of free rent and virtually no stress to be healing, but unfortunately, she wasn’t able to escape the turmoil.
Destructive thoughts enveloped her psyche and she couldn’t get past the idea that she was a disappointment to everyone she loved. Her parents encouraged her to go back to school or to work more or to go out with friends more. All these things seem normal from a caring parent, however, someone with an already delicate mental state is more vulnerable than someone who has not suffered from a mental health disorder.
Lockwood hadn’t been connected with her father or two brothers since the time she moved to Oklahoma when she was 13. For more than 7 years, she was all but estranged from her immediate family. This factor had a monumental effect on her emotional well-being.
Self-inflicted disappointment and emotional anguish led to yet another impulse escape plan. One week she was talking to her friends and family about wanting to move back to New York, the next she was packed and ready to go.
Lockwood made the 21 hour drive to upstate New York. She was reconnecting with family and rekindled relationships that were seemingly broken beyond repair. Without school work or bills to pay, she no longer struggled with stress. She began to create an idea of herself that she was more worthy and recognized her love for travel.
In the same year she dropped out of college, she discovered her dream job. Job applications and dream boards on Pinterest inspired a motivation she hadn’t seen in herself before. She was excited about her future.
After a few interviews, she was invited to training as a flight attendant for a major airline. Three weeks of unpaid training, studying and sleepless nights, she graduated flight attendant school and was offered a full-time position with the job of her dreams.
Airline employees and those in the aviation field struggle with mental health stigmas. For those who struggle with mental health, it is more difficult to become a pilot, however, as a flight attendant, the requirements are less strenuous. Ironically enough, flight attendants experience more loneliness and social disconnect than the average person due to their unstable routines.
“I love this job,” Lockwood said. “It’s a lot of fun and I’ve gotten to go to a lot of cool places, but it’s hard work, so I don’t see myself doing it forever. I guess I’ll just figure it out as I go.”
In less than eight years, Lockwood found misery, disappointment and trauma. In the same time, she forged a path for healing and is learning to cope with her unwelcome thoughts. She made memories and gained friends who love her dearly despite all the things she once decided made her worthless.
She revealed a strength in herself everyone else underestimated and through that was able to snag a job in a field that allows her to travel and do what she loves most. She is now living happily in Orlando, FL with new friends and a multitude of opportunities. She has gotten to travel to more than 10 states since she started her routine as a flight attendant and will hopefully continue to find the light at the end of her tunnel.
Lockwood isn’t a perfect picture of success and she still battles her demons like anyone else, but, if anything, her story fits the classic “it gets better” narrative.
Mental health disorders, whether it is depression, anxiety, PTSD, or any other kind of chemical imbalances, affect more than 300 million people worldwide. If you or anyone you know is struggling with harmful thoughts, please get help from a medical professional. Call 1-800-273-8255 anytime, day or night.
One thing to take away from this story is that it gets better. As Dolly Parton said, “If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”