When LDS blogger and public speaker Sister Jamie Hutchings was 10, she was diagnosed with acute myelocytic leukemia. The doctors gave her 25% chance at survival, but she and her family chose to fight. Jamie’s young immune system was beaten down by the treatments and she was given a sterile room to live in at the hospital. In her popular blog, Surviving the Bubble, Jaime calls this her “bubble room”.
She spent 3 months there, enduring painful procedures and frequent testing. Several miracles combined to give her a healthy life, not just free of cancer but protected from critical side effects from her treatment. After her prolonged stay, she was cleared to leave her “bubble”.
This was a happy ending, but those who know Sister Hutchings know there’s more to her life experience. Because of her childhood illness, she made friends in the children’s wards. Many did not survive their illnesses. She recalls feeling a stab of guilt when grieving parents looked at her, and the survivors’ guilt created a unique pressure. “I felt I had to prove I was worthy of this second life,” she says.
She then strove to prove to herself and to the world that she could do life right. On the outside, she was a successful and engaged teen.
Inside, it was a different story. She contemplated suicide at seventeen.
She, like many young people, was suffering silently with mental illness. Anxiety and depression are common, and they often go undiagnosed and untreated, sometimes resulting in teen suicide. For Jamie, the pressure to be “normal” turned her early medical miracles into a terrible weight. With help from doctors, friends, and family, Jamie continued her fight for her own life, this time from her own mind.
She knew her experiences with leukemia were unique, and the healing and miracles were an experience that could benefit others. She moved forward to share her story, beginning with her blog and speaking engagements at youth fireside.
At first, she believed her focus should be on surviving “the bubble”. When she stood up to speak, she was instead prompted to speak about her later fight with mental illness. This was a trial that many had in common, and youth needed to hear her message. “It’s okay,” she says, “not to be normal.”
Since that first night, her messages have opened discussions on mental illness through Utah and Arizona. “I’m not your typical fireside speaker,” she says. “I talk about a very serious subject, but I’m fun, loud and a little crazy. I want the youth to be engaged so my message will sink in more.”
This works best when parents and leaders are invited. “There are so many who are suffering silently,” she says. In discussions, she notes the responses of the youth and, afterward, will mention to leaders who might need a follow up.
Sister Hutchings says, “For someone with depression, one of the biggest struggles is feeling alone. If I can help the youth open this conversation with not only themselves, but their parents and leaders, they will know that they have people around them that love them and want to help. They will also see there are people out there who can relate. Depression and suicide are topics that people still shy away from or are ashamed to address. I want to break that open and show we don’t need to be ashamed. It is a very real struggle our Heavenly Father is aware of, and there is help. Suicide should not be an option.”
Sister Hutchings can be reached through the contact page on her website, SurvivingTheBubble.com. She also has links to mental health and suicide prevention resources.