Reaching Full Potential
Sarah's Story

In high school, there were two Sarah Leonards.

There was the Sarah Leonard who played piano and violin in an orchestra, sang in a choir, held the highest GPA in her class all four years, and started a non-profit benefiting disadvantaged girls and women.

At the very same time, there was the Sarah Leonard, who cut herself, sometimes on a daily basis - on her hips so no one would see, who was hospitalized nine times in four years for wishing she were dead.

“There were a lot of people who thought I was perfect, that everything came easy to me. People said ‘I wish my daughter were like you.’ “

For years, no one knew Sarah’s constant achievement and occasional laughter belied her unrelenting depression. When she was 14, she told a friend she wanted to kill herself. Sarah was diagnosed with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder and put on medication, but it took a couple of years to find the right combination that staved off depression but didn’t leave her so anxious she felt as if she couldn’t breathe.

During a hospitalization while she was a junior at Westerville South High School, Sarah began Dialectical Behavioral Therapy through a program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She credits the program with giving her an arsenal of tactics to reframe her thoughts, thereby pulling herself out of anxious or dark moments.

“I feel like now I’m more like the person everyone thought I was before: involved with life and passionate about things, happy.’’

And yet freshman year at The Ohio State University was challenging, particularly as a Neuroscience major. “I start to think ‘I’m not depressed. I’m just living a normal life now as a student.’ Then it hit me.”

Sarah has since found balance and a new major in social work. Again she is hopeful her hospitalizations will remain a part of the past, a necessary part that is moving her forward.

Are you or someone you know in need of help?

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Community Insight
“With mental disorders, the idea of ‘cure me doctor and then I get better,’ doesn’t really work. These are difficult problems to treat.”
JOHN CAMPO, MD Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, The Ohio State University Medical Center
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