The next destination

Junior shares mental health journey
Junior Izzy Frederick holds a photo of herself when she was younger. Though she maintained high grades throughout her GT classes as a child, Izzy fell into “the wrong crowd” in middle school and her grades, along with her mental health, began to decline. “Life just got hard,” Izzy said. “Everything got dark.”
Junior Izzy Frederick holds a photo of herself when she was younger. Though she maintained high grades throughout her GT classes as a child, Izzy fell into “the wrong crowd” in middle school and her grades, along with her mental health, began to decline. “Life just got hard,” Izzy said. “Everything got dark.”
Krista Fleming

Editor’s note: This article discusses self-harm and suicide attempts. If you or someone you know is struggling with similar things, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

 

They don’t know. 

That’s what junior Izzy Frederick tells herself as she walks down the halls or drives through the streets just to look at people and “experience life.” 

Some of them may know she was called “Elmo” in eighth grade for her red hair, and a few of them may have even recognized the change in her between middle and high school. 

But they don’t know how long it’s taken her to get to this point. They don’t know the years of counseling it took for her to smile daily and “mean it every time.”

They don’t know what happened next to the dumpsters behind the Dick’s Sporting Goods in Stonebriar Centre, nor the pain that followed later that night.

They don’t know that, three years ago, on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving, Izzy tried to take her own life. 

Early life

When she first started kindergarten, Izzy began to show signs of anxiety — constantly biting her nails or chewing her hair. Yet, at the end of the school year, her teachers recommended she be put into the Gifted and Talented (GT) program.

“I dropped my pencil a thousand times [during the test to get in,]” Izzy said. “But eventually, I got the call. It was the best day of my parent’s life.” 

Izzy transferred to Independence Elementary, where her mother enrolled her in the Dual Language program. In the course, the teacher would spend a week teaching in English, then the next in Spanish. Unable to understand Spanish very well, Izzy’s grades began to decline.

“It was too much for her,” Izzy’s mom, Minerva Frederick, said. “Her teacher knew I [spoke] Spanish, and she’d expect more of Izzy because of that.”

Even during the weeks she was taught in English, Izzy struggled to fill the gaps left from the lessons before. Near the end of third grade, the school approached Izzy’s parents and gave them an ultimatum: she had to either leave GT or the Dual Language program. 

“Being out of GT would’ve been detrimental to my parents,” Izzy said. “They never wanted that. Once I was in, that was their pride and joy. They were just so proud that I was ‘smarter’ than everyone else.”

 

A hole in the wall of the master bedroom of the Fredericks’ house made during an argument between Izzy and her parents. The hole was made when Izzy slammed a door open after Minerva closed it.
A hole in the wall of the master bedroom of the Fredericks’ house made during an argument between Izzy and her parents. The hole was made when Izzy slammed a door open after Minerva closed it. (Krista Fleming)
“The wrong crowd”

In sixth grade, Izzy befriended older students, many of whom were “talking about the wrong things and doing the wrong things.” Following their examples, Izzy’s reputation took a turn for the worse.

“I wanted to grow up way too fast,” Izzy said. “I thought it was the coolest thing in the world to be with these older kids because I wanted to be those older kids.” 

A few months into the school year, Izzy’s new girlfriend told her that she had been self-harming and explained the term for the first time. Later that night, Izzy went home and self-harmed, which eventually became routine. She hid her arms under oversized hoodies, and would make another mark after school just to stare at the blood in the mirror. 

“I was raised with this ‘crying in front of people isn’t a good thing’ mindset,” Izzy said. “When I was sad, I went upstairs, cried in the closet, wiped my tears away [and] pretended to be fine. I thought it was weak to be the way that I was, so I didn’t tell anybody.” 

I was raised with this ‘crying in front of people isn’t a good thing’ mindset. When I was sad, I went upstairs, cried in the closet, wiped my tears away [and] pretended to be fine. I thought it was weak to be the way that I was, so I didn’t tell anybody.

— Izzy Frederick, junior

Izzy’s relationship with her parents grew more strained as sixth grade continued, fighting mainly about grades, Izzy’s friends and all sorts of “little things that built up.” 

“We dismissed the signs,” Minerva said. “We didn’t want to understand it. We didn’t want to think that our perfect child wasn’t perfect anymore.” 

During one particular argument, Izzy ran downstairs. She grabbed a knife from the kitchen, cut next to the marks quickly taking over her arm and showed her parents the freshly bleeding skin. 

“Is this what you want?” She asked them. “Is this the point you want to push your kid to?”

Izzy’s parents found out she was hurting herself a few days prior, but that fight was what ultimately pushed them to send her to therapy. 

“[That argument] was a cry for help, even if I didn’t know it,” Izzy said. “It was this unspoken way of screaming ‘Look at me. Look at what I’m going through. Help me.’”

Every Thursday, Izzy would go to a one-on-one session, a group session and wait while her parents attended a parenting group session. She would be there from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. 

“You just feel helpless when something like that happens,” Minerva said. “You don’t understand it, but you have to accept it. We didn’t know who or what caused those feelings, but we knew it was serious. I just remember realizing that all she needed right then was as much love and support as I could give her.”

Her self-harm grew more severe as time went on. Eventually, she switched from a pencil sharpener to a broken razor. At the end, though, she would always panic and hold toilet paper to the wound until the blood slowed. 

“I wanted to die every time,” Izzy said. “It wasn’t my love for myself or anyone else that kept me alive, it was my fear. It was a final decision and committing to that — to death — terrified me.”  

Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020

As her relationship with her parents continued to deteriorate, friends and girlfriends drifted in and out of her life and self-harm became one of her few constants. Jan. 15 of her seventh grade year, Izzy began to date a different girl, of whom she “quickly became obsessed.”

“That’s when I really lost sight of school,” Izzy said. “My brain was just ‘her, her, her, her, her.’”

The two stayed together until July 1 of 2020, through six months of cheating back and forth, arguments, and break-ups, only to get back together. Even when they stayed broken up, Izzy continued to hang out with that group.

“I was steering a sinking ship, and as long as we were together, nothing was going to get better,” Izzy said. “I dragged her down. I took her to the bad mental place I was in.” 

I was steering a sinking ship, and as long as we were together, nothing was going to get better. I dragged her down. I took her to the bad mental place I was in.

— Izzy Frederic, junior

One Saturday night, hanging out with the same “wrong crowd” ranging from 11 to 18-year-olds, Izzy made a comment about the new person her ex-girlfriend was seeing. The comment spurred an argument that led them through the soon-to-be-closing mall, out the doors of Dick’s Sporting Goods and to the dumpsters as rain poured. 

“If you have a problem,” her ex-girlfriend had said, “we can go outside and take care [of it].” 

The rain soaked Izzy’s black, washed-out jeans and hoodie as she fell to the ground in the middle of the fight, trying to avoid punch after punch. Her ex got on top of her, mud staining Izzy’s Air Force shoes. 

“She just started going,” Izzy said. “She went, and went, and went and she didn’t stop.” 

Around her, the group — people she had been laughing with only minutes prior — stood watching, videotaping and cheering. It wasn’t until Izzy had a busted lip and skin that would be littered with bruises by morning that the eldest of them pulled the two girls apart.

“It was everyone I had held close in my life and, in one night, I realized that none of them cared,” Izzy said. “I was just their entertainment.” 

Wanting “to do nothing more than to go home,” Izzy called her mom to pick her up; they argued the entire way home about where she had been. After taking her phone, Izzy’s parents found the video of the fight. 

“I just remember thinking ‘Oh my god,’” Minerva said. “As a parent, you try to do what’s best for your child. You try to protect them. Then you just see that — see someone hitting your kid — and it breaks you.” 

I just remember thinking ‘Oh my god.’ As a parent, you try to do what’s best for your child. You try to protect them. Then you just see that — see someone hitting your kid — and it breaks you.

— Minerva Frederick, Izzy’s mom

Banned from seeing her ex-girlfriend or that group of friends again, Izzy ran upstairs and grabbed the broken razor with dried blood from the previous day. She said it was the most she had ever wanted to die — “the closest attempt.” 

“I didn’t think there was going to be an ‘after’ that moment,” Izzy said. “I just thought that would be it, and I was ready.” 

As more blood than she had ever seen before began to swell out of the cut, the only thought running through Izzy’s mind was her mother’s face. 

“I realized, in that moment, how much I owed [my mother,]” Izzy said. “She trusted me and loved me and I didn’t deserve any of it. That was when I realized I couldn’t do it anymore — I couldn’t be that person anymore.”

Izzy pulled the sleeve of her still-soaked hoodie over her arm and ran down the stairs, past the Christmas tree and into the arms of her mother. Fresh blood still drying beneath the wet fabric, she sobbed into her mother’s arms for the first time in years. 

“She just held me,” Izzy said. “She told me that she would always love me, no matter what I did or was going to do. She trusted me and I didn’t want to let her down anymore.”

Recovery

When Izzy got her phone back, she deleted most of her social media and blocked her old friend group. She said she originally did it all for her parents — got better grades for them, stopped self-harming for them and tried to love life for them. 

“I didn’t know it back then, but happiness is a choice,” Izzy said. “You don’t have to change anything to be happy; you just have to decide that you want to be happy and find the good things in your life.”

For Mother’s Day later that year, Izzy wrote her mom a note, saying she “finally did what [her mother’s] been asking for” by getting better grades and “learning to see the good in life.” They both cried when Minerva read it for the first time. 

“Hearing those words was like she was being born again,” Minerva said. “I can’t describe it. It was like hope came into my heart again, and, all of a sudden, she was a new person. I had my baby back.”

Hearing those words was like she was being born again. I can’t describe it. It was like hope came into my heart again, and, all of a sudden, she was a new person. I had my baby back.

— Minerva Frederick, Izzy’s mom

Izzy’s relationship with her peers began to improve, she said, especially as recovery shifted into something she was doing for herself. When she went out, it was with a few close friends instead of the large, always-changing group like before. She said one of her biggest goals at the time was just to love and accept herself. 

“Your bad actions don’t make you a bad person,” Izzy said. “I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life [and] I’ve hurt a lot of people, but that’s not who I am. I don’t do those things anymore — I’m not that person anymore.” 

Izzy began to work at Kroger her sophomore year, where she met her best friend, Siniah Hemingway. Izzy eventually told her what happened.

“She’s never been loved properly,” Siniah said. “That just makes me want to be there for her more to show her that she deserves happiness — that good love does exist.”

Ever since she found out about the similar mental health struggle Siniah’s sister is going through, Izzy began trying to share her story and helping the Hemingway family.

“It’s almost relieving to have [Izzy] with us,” Siniah said. “I wish she hadn’t gone through any of what she had, but I’m incredibly thankful that she’s here to help my family and sister through it all. She’s been guiding us through a really dark time.”

Izzy said her desire to help people won’t stop in high school because she plans to major in business, go into law and eventually be a judge in the Supreme Court. 

“I don’t want to be one of those people that nobody knows,” Izzy said. “I’m going to make an impact with these years I never thought I’d have.”

For now, though, Izzy said she’s just trying to enjoy life. When she needs to clear her mind, she’ll get in her car and start driving. When she wakes up, she’s ready to have another day without focusing too much on growing up.

“I was always looking for the next destination back then,” Izzy said. “I wanted to fly past every ride — skip all the important moments that lead you to the next place. In doing so, in looking for that future where things would be better, I skipped every chance I had to be happy then. I won’t make that mistake again.”

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    ashna haideraliOct 12, 2023 at 12:07 AM

    amazing feature krista :)

    Reply