Senior JeanneMarie Mandley has many nicknames, such as Marie, Jeanne, John, and Jim, but apparently only a select few of her friends get to call her by a nickname. “Everyone else is required to call me JeanneMarie,” she said. But even if JeanneMarie’s name isn’t recognizable, her personality sure is. JeanneMarie is one of those people who knows and is friends with everyone at Niles West. Even while I was interviewing her, she was waving and saying hi to everyone that she knew (which is everyone.)
“My natural face in the hall is a blank look,” she said. “But I’m a really nice person… don’t judge me from what you hear from other people.”
JeanneMarie has had a pretty rough year. In August of 2011, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and since then has gone through a lot of treatment.
“My mom was calm when she found out, but I had a really difficult time. I’ve lost a lot of family members to cancer, and I don’t want my mom to be one of them,” she said.
JeanneMarie tries to spend as much time with her mom as possible, even if she has less time for other activities. She takes care of her after chemotherapy; last year, her mother underwent a mastectomy, and that was really hard for her.
“I just make sure to be there for my mom whenever she needs me,” she said.
Family is a big part of JeanneMarie’s life. She’s the youngest out of five, and her oldest sibling is her brother, Zach, who’s 36 years old. She’s not really close with any of her brothers, but she considers one of her oldest best friends a sister, even though they’re not blood related.
“Her mom died when she was only 12 years old and our family took her under our wings. I love her, and I’m really close with her. I go up to visit her almost every weekend.”
Her parents are really important to her, too.
“I’m just more aware of how easy it is to lose a parent, I respect them a lot more, and since my mom was diagnosed, I’ve cherished them more than I used to,” she said.
JeanneMarie and her dad were really close when she was younger, but drifted ever since she quit doing basketball in the eighth grade. But the diagnosis seemed to have brought her family back together to where they should be.
However, not many people are very understanding of JeanneMarie’s situation. This past year, she’s dealt with a lot of bullying. It all started at Park View and worked its way up to high school.
“It went so far that some troll made a fake Facebook and sent me death threats and racial slurs. My parents had to contact the police,” JeanneMarie said.
A lot of name calling about her weight and personality occurred as well. She felt so broken down that she started resorting to self-harm.
“I felt like I was screaming about it; it felt like I couldn’t do anything, but [self-harm] relieved me because it took out all the stress, and it’s kind of like the pain took my mind off of everything,” JeanneMarie said.
One day, one of her friends noticed some of her scars and took her to the Deans right away. Her parents sent her for some professional help.
“The professionals helped a lot more than a friend because sometimes friends don’t get it,” she said.
Self-injury is not a healthy way of dealing with emotions and stress. Telling a trusted adult that you are resorting to these extremes will help you, even if it seems like telling someone would be the worst situation possible. Niles West has a variety of resources for kids who are struggling, and if you are one of those kids, you should take advantage of those resources; it’s always in your best interest.
“It feels good to tell a friend, but a friend isn’t equipped to make the situation better,” said Dr. Landini, the school psychologist. “You need to pick your person that you tell carefully. Go to professionals first because they’re trained. Teachers are also trained to deal with kids and helping them.”
One of the ways to help those who resort to those extreme’s is to find another outlet for emotions. JeanneMarie found that through choir. She’s been singing since the beginning of freshman year, and absolutely loves it. She’d been singing all her life, but it wasn’t until she started getting solos that she realized she was good at singing. She feels as if choir is just one of those activities that can bring people together.
“It’s just a fun activity and I’m really glad I started it,” she said.
Another outlet she has is the advice column she run’s on Tumblr under the link, “fearless-ambitions.” She felt inspired to start it to share her story and experiences she had with bullying and self-harm. She hopes that by doing this she’ll inspire people to go and get help, and to reassure that they’re not alone.
“The professionals didn’t tell me what I needed to do; instead they just sat and listened. That’s exactly what I needed.” JeanneMarie said.
And that’s another reason why she created this column, to give those who don’t know how to speak out, someone to listen to them, because that’s all she needed when she was going through her experiences. She hopes to provide those without support, an ear to listen to them and talk to them about getting help.
But JeanneMarie hasn’t always been just a victim to bullying; she recalls being the bully, too.
“It was freshman year, and I was friends with ‘those girls.’ I followed them all around and did everything they did. I just wanted to fit in. My ‘friends’ victimized this girl who just came to America, and I ended up taking her aside and saying sorry. I hate that they put her in that situation. After that, I stopped being friends with them. I didn’t want to be a follower anymore; I just wanted to be me.”
And she has stuck to her words since then. She claims to not have a “whip and chain” and doesn’t care if people follow her. She just embraces her natural self, which is why she attracts so many people to be her friend.
“One thing I notice is that she definitely has certain things that she cares about and she kind of fights to make sure she knows what she’s doing is right,” said her best friend and senior, Molly Kleppin. “She’s very trustworthy, I know I can tell her anything if I need to tell her something… she always makes me laugh.”
Molly genuinely only had the best things to say about JeanneMarie, always talking about how much she makes Molly smile, laugh and can always lift her mood.
“Most of the time, whenever she makes me laugh it’s because of her laugh. I don’t know what it is something will be funny and I’ll laugh and then she’ll laugh and I’ll just keep laughing because her laugh is contagious,” Molly said.
Her smile and ability to love and care for others is as contagious as her laugh. As much as JeanneMarie has been through in the short time she’s been alive, she still has the ability to be able to put on a smile everyday and care for the people around her. That alone, shows the kind of caring and loving person JeanneMarie is, and always will be.
“Yes, I’m loud, and I get a lot of crap for it, too, but that’s just who I am. I like being able to get a whole room to listen to me if I want to. I’m not going to change myself for anyone, I like who I am, and I want to stick with who I am,” she said.
If you’re struggling with bullying or self-harm, and you don’t feel comfortable going to a school psychologist, here are some numbers you can call and some websites you can visit for more information: