By Sydney Madry
Louisville Male High School
In seventh grade, when Makaio Smith most needed love and support from someone who was close, the darkness grabbed her by the neck. She received endless backlash –– especially about her body.
The words were hurtful. Smith’s mood darkened, and she ended up cutting herself five times. When her mom discovered what was going on, she immediately sent her to a residential program for help.
Now an outgoing 16-year-old, Smith wants to share her story to help give a voice to other young people who are afraid to speak about their mental health.
“I was flooded with emotions… I was really hysterical. I know I was crying a lot,” said Smith, a rising junior at Atherton High School in Louisville.
The harsh comments made her second-guess herself and even question her parents’ love. She was forced into a deep, dark hole of nothingness. On the day she cut herself, she didn’t even realize what had happened.
“It literally felt like I was out of my body,” Smith said. “It didn’t hurt… it didn’t come to my brain until 20 minutes later. I saw blood and I washed it off and at that point, it did hurt and I cried.”
Smith participated in group therapy as well as one-on-one sessions at the residential center. She said it was a fellow teen who helped her the most.
“This one girl who had been there for two weeks,” Smith said, “she completely changed my outlook. Every day she would say something positive or just be positive… I thought in my head, ‘I can be the same way.’”
Smith battled through her hurt with a love for both books and her caring mother. She reminded herself each day how much her mom loved her.
“With books, I can escape, and just get into a world where I’m completely filled with warm blankets and fuzzy feelings,” she said.
These days, her high school media arts teacher, Rachel Rice, has provided inspiration to Smith. She credits Rice with helping to create her love and passion for journalism.
When Smith turned in her first article in class, Rice edited them and returned them for corrections. Smith said she was completely satisfied with the final story.
Rice has also been her biggest cheerleader.
“When I told her that I got accepted into the [Xposure] program,” Smith said, “she was beyond proud of me.”