Alumna’s essay on depression goes viral

Pohle’s story received over 900,000 views online.
Allison Pohle is crowned Homecoming Queen of her Solon, Ohio, high school in 2009. Now an MU alum, s wrote a viral essay on her battle with depression, "The Saddest Homecoming Queen in Ohio."

It was triggered by the loss of a black ballet flat.

Like Cinderella, some people draw parallels between losing a shoe and finding true love, but for MU alumna Allison Pohle, losing a shoe and getting it back helped her to find herself.

Allison was the 2009 Homecoming Queen at her high school in Solon, Ohio. During this time she was — and still is — battling clinical depression. Now, five years later, she said she was inspired to write and publish an article titled “The Saddest Homecoming Queen in Ohio,” after losing her shoe on a subway in New York.

Writing the essay was a big step for Allison and was supported by her family. Though they didn’t know she wrote it until she sent them the link when it was published by Medium on Oct. 13, they said they were overwhelmed with pride and emotion.

“Honestly, I cried when I read it,” her brother Eric Pohle said. “It was a very emotional story because it brought back a lot of memories and tough times.”

Her mother, Sue Pohle, was equally proud of Allison for revealing such a major part of her life. Sue said it brought back a lot of heartbreaking memories, but it also proved just how far Allison had come in five years.

But Allison didn’t craft the piece without difficulty. She said she struggled to admit that she was aiming for the title of royalty at her high school, claiming that it sounded superficial.

Even more of an obstacle to confess than her royal ambitions was the condition she’s suffered from for so many years.

“It’s hard to say I have depression,” Allison said.

While her illness took a toll on her, Allison said it also affected those she was around every day, especially her family.

The hardest part about watching his older sister go through her clinical depression was knowing there wasn’t much he could do to help her, Eric said. It was a battle she had to face on her own.

After Allison’s essay was published, she said, the response was far greater than she had expected. With over 900,000 views, countless messages and comments have poured in from people going through similar struggles. They express how much her story helped them and seek her advice.

Though she has spent a portion of her life battling depression, her brother said the fact that she was able to write and publish such a personal essay is a testament to her strength.

“She’s really brave,” Eric Pohle said. “A lot of people are dealing with depression and she openly talked about what she went through. People tell her, ‘you’ve put into words something I never could.’ The fact that she was able to put it into words shows (how) brave and strong she is.”

To Allison, all the messages she’s gotten have made releasing this part of her life completely worth it. She said the story has become so much bigger than just her. As a journalist, Allison has spent a lot of her time being the interviewee. Now on the other side, she said she understands how much of an impact stories can have on others.

“It’s shown me the value of sharing stories because it’s helped people in ways I’ve never imagined,” she said. “It’s really terrifying to share something so personal, so I hope people who read this and have depression aren’t afraid to ask for help. We can’t go through life alone. We aren’t meant to go through life alone.”

Her family said they believe she made the right choice in choosing to publish her writing, because not many people openly talk about depression and the personal effects it has.

“I don’t think anyone really realizes how much this can affect someone,” Sue Pohle said. “She’d gone through a lot. People shouldn’t suffer in silence. Maybe the more people talk about it, the more it will be accepted.”

Allison said she has learned through her experience that it’s important to ask for help because she didn’t in high school. Although she had thought people could tell that there was something wrong with her, they largely couldn’t.

“I’ve become a lot better at asking for help, and I hope they can ask for help, too,” Allison said. “If someone is feeling a certain way, then it is valid and they aren’t wrong. I hope they are comfortable enough with themselves and those around them to get help. I hope this encourages them to talk to someone who’s in a position to help them.”

There’s a stigma attached to most topics centered around mental health, Sue Pohle said, and she’s proud that Allison published something to help lessen that stigma.

Ultimately, Allison said she thinks it’s important to show that mental illness doesn’t discriminate — that even the homecoming queen has it, too.

And though she still finds it difficult to admit she wanted to be the one crowned high school royalty, she said, the further she’s distanced herself from high school, the more she understands it.

“We all have these crowns we’re chasing to find happiness, and that was mine,” Allison said.

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