Leo’s Story

At 8 years old, Leo was in a dark place. He self harmed, contemplated suicide, and was hospitalized. With the help of clinicians at Italian Home, Leo made tremendous strides working through his anger, depression, and anxiety disorder. Today, Leo is 22. He is happier than he ever thought was possible and wanted to share his journey with you.
Leo's Story

"I started therapy with the Brighton-Allston Mental Health Association very young, I was 8. I had trouble making friends, I struggled to pay attention in school, I couldn’t control my anger, I was depressed, suicidal, isolated, anxious, and my speech impediment didn’t make any of the above any easier. I would be diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder and I would stay in therapy for more than 10 years. I would be hospitalized twice, once in 8th grade and once again in my sophomore year of high school. It definitely wasn’t easy getting to where I am now. I remember so clearly hating myself, feeling completely worthless, and like the world would be so much better off if I took my own life. The most tragic part of it all is that it was totally normal for me. I didn’t feel broken compared to everyone else, I thought it was completely average to, at the age of 13, go everyday considering killing myself and hating every part of who I was. Eventually I realized that everyone else didn’t feel that way, and I wanted so desperately to feel comfortable with who I was and with my future since I knew it was possible to get rid of the feelings which had haunted me my entire young life.

I remember vividly, sitting in my therapist’s office when I was 15 or 16 after a tough but manageable day and saying, “Maybe this is as good as I get. Maybe the best I get is only hating myself 2 days every week, and only feeling suicidal every few weeks. That’s okay with me, I think I can live like that. I can get through life if I only hate myself for part of every week.” I’m happy I didn’t settle for that. I had come a long way but I didn’t know that I would be so much better than even what at the time was the best I had ever been. Feeling suicidal and alone used to be so normal for me and now I struggle to even remember what it was like to feel that way, even though I know I felt it so strongly for so many years. I used to be so isolated, I didn’t have many friends and I was so used to feeling utterly useless and forgettable, but now I have so many people around me who I love having in my life, so many things I do that I love spending time on, and so those old feelings feel so foreign and detached from the person I am now. Things which broke young me are completely manageable and conquerable now, and it was that progress over many years that led me to who I am and the much improved person I am now.

At this point in my life, and probably at every point from here on out, it’s hard for me to remember exactly how I felt when I first started, mostly because the person I am now would have seemed entirely unattainable to 8 year old me. I’m 22 now, I’m about to graduate with a bachelor's degree, I have more friends now than I thought I’d ever have, and I feel better than 8 year old me would have even thought was possible. I still have my speech impediment, although it’s much improved, and I still get overwhelmed, angry, and detached from time to time but the difference from then to now is so incredible I still don’t quite know how I did it. With a lot of help, I know that for sure. I guess that’s the strange magic of therapy: it's incremental. When you do it long enough, you’ve learned so much about yourself, fixed so many of the broken and challenging areas in yourself, and you’ve learned so much about processing emotions and strengthening who you are that when you look back it's hard to remember there was a time when you weren’t the way you are now. I know that’s true for me. And I couldn’t be more happy about it. All the progress I’ve made comes back to this: if not for a therapist who helped me for so long, asked me all the right questions, led me to all the right answers, and pushed me in all the right directions every week for over a decade, I know I wouldn’t have a tenth of the happiness, stability, confidence, optimism, and future I have now and that lies ahead."

Italian Home for Children is able to provide access to mental health services because of the generosity of community partners and donors, like you. After you hear Leo’s story, I hope that you will consider renewing your support of Italian Home with a donation at a level that is meaningful to you.