A brave young woman has revealed how her life changed overnight following an attempt to take her own life after she was raped.
Sarah Marino, 22, from Delaware, Ohio, attempted suicide by jumping off the roof of a parking garage on August 10, 2017, when she was 19-years-old, following a string of undiagnosed and untreated mental health disorders.
While the part-time student at Ohio State University survived the incident, she was left with a traumatic brain injury, an incomplete spinal cord injury, and a broken back, while her legs, feet, and pelvis were so badly damaged that she required a number of intensive surgeries.
Recovery: Rape victim Sarah Marino, 22, was left with horrific injuries after she tried to take her own life by jumping off the roof of a parking garage, one year after she was assaulted
Changes: The Delaware native was left with a traumatic brain injury, an incomplete spinal cord injury, and a broken back, while her legs, feet, and pelvis were also badly damaged
Shocking: Sarah’s suicide attempt came after years of silent mental health struggles, and she is now speaking out about her experience to raise awareness about the conditions
Speaking to Jam Press, Sarah explained, ‘I jumped off the top of the parking garage on Ohio State’s campus.
‘I had a long history of undiagnosed and untreated major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.’
Sarah says her PTSD stemmed from being raped the year before, when she was 18 and noted that this was not her first suicide attempt.
‘In the months leading up to my suicide, I just felt trapped. Trapped in my head, with my intrusive thoughts. I started self-medicating with marijuana, which my parents found out about, adding tension to an already tense home life. At the point I just felt like a burden, I felt like I was letting everyone down.
‘I felt I was letting myself down. I was always a good student and a hard worker but I stopped going to classes and to my two jobs. I was withdrawing and isolating myself while repressing all the emotions.
‘People were seeming to take a negative view of this behavior which I took personally. I didn’t know how to make things better. I felt worthless. I felt like I couldn’t be fixed.’
‘I felt like I was spiraling downward and things were only going to get worse and I was only going to hurt more people. I just wanted out and suicide seemed like the only option.’
Memories: The Ohio State University student (pictured before her injuries) said that she spent months ‘leading up to my suicide’ feeling ‘trapped’
Hiding: Sarah says that she hid her struggles because she worried that people were ‘taking a negative view’ of her behavior
Reminder: Following the heartbreaking incident, Sarah spent six weeks in Ohio State’s hospital before returning home, and she is still suffering with the injuries more than one year later
Step by step: Sarah had to re-learn how to do everything, from brushing her teeth to walking
Following the heartbreaking incident, Sarah spent six weeks in Ohio State’s hospital before returning home.
‘I spent the first week in the SICU going in and out of surgery and being heavily medicated and monitored,’ she recalled.
‘I don’t remember too much about that. I then spent a couple of weeks on the brain and spine floor. Still receiving surgeries, but beginning to start very basic therapy like sitting up to brush my teeth; something I could barely do without passing out or falling over.
‘At this point, I had no movement below my hips. My trunk support was very weak and obviously being fresh from back surgeries made things like sitting up extremely difficult. I then spent three weeks at Dodd Hall at OSU, a rehabilitation hospital.’
While at Dodd, Sarah undertook a number of different activities such as speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy to help improve her condition and prepare her for using a wheelchair.
‘I did things like learning how to get dressed, shower, cook, get into cars, clean, and other daily tasks. Physical therapy was to see how much response my body was giving, and work with what is working.
‘Exercises and muscle strengthening were a big part of PT. By the time I left Dodd, I could almost kick a balloon off a cone about a foot in front of me.’
Agony: Sarah says her PTSD stemmed from being raped the year before her suicide attempt, when she was 18 and she admitted that the accident was not the first time she tried kill herself
Pain: ‘I spent the first week in the SICU going in and out of surgery and being heavily medicated and monitored,’ Sarah, whose X-rays are pictured, recalled
Walk on: Sarah has undergone extensive physical therapy, however she is still limited in her mobility as a result of her injuries
Upset: Sarah said she was initially unaware of the extensive damage caused by her spinal cord injury and did not know how serious it was
‘After I left I started doing outpatient occupational therapy and physical therapy to keep building upon the function that I did have and to get more used to living life in a wheelchair in the community and at home.’
Sarah said she was initially unaware of the extensive damage caused by her spinal cord injury and did not know how serious it was.
‘I had a “take it day by day” mentality because things would literally change by the day. At first, I just began adjusting to my new life and I didn’t really have the time or mental capacity to take everything in and grieve at that point.’
The student now takes regular medications for nerve pain and general pain, and now has a spinal cord stimulator implanted in her back to help with the pain. She also takes medications for depression and anxiety.
‘I still go to physical therapy but I am much more limited now in my daily life. My morning routine takes much longer, as it’s much harder to move and get around so things like brushing teeth, or getting breakfast take a lot longer.’
While Sarah’s mom now acts as her caretaker when at home, the student admits that her house isn’t entirely practical for her needs.
‘My house isn’t exactly accessible so I need my mom to help me go upstairs to shower, which I use a shower chair to take showers, or to prep big meals, as some of the dishes are hard to reach.’
Looking ahead: The student now takes regular medications for nerve pain and general pain, and now has a spinal cord stimulator implanted in her back to help with the pain
Family support: Sarah’s mother now has to act as her full-time carer
Struggles: The college student, pictured recently, says before her injury she was a happy-go-lucky person who didn’t take things too seriously and would mask her mental health issues
‘I’ve moved my room a bit around the first floor of my house, but in the beginning, my mom had to even carry me to the bathroom. Now it is a little easier to access for me, though falls still happen when I have to stand to wash my hands. I am unable to sit up for long periods of time due to pain, so many things I used to do are limited.’
‘Having long nights at the college bar, something I used to do, is just not quite feasible. Exercise classes are no longer an option, though there are modified exercises I do on my own for PT. I used to be a bit of a runner, not anymore.’
Despite this, brave Sarah has returned to her studies but admits this is still a challenge in itself, with pain still being her biggest limiting factor.
The student says before her injury she was a happy-go-lucky type of person who wouldn’t take things too seriously and would often mask her mental health issues.
‘I think I wanted people to think I had it all together when I didn’t at all. I didn’t want people to think I was too serious or too sad or too depressed to be around. Now I’m a lot more open about my life. I will talk about the good and the bad. I can see this bigger picture a little bit better now and feel more in touch with myself and my emotions.’
Sarah has been documenting her recovery progress on Instagram, @smarino22, where she regularly shares photos from her daily life.
The student says she has received amazing and positive responses from her followers, many of whom have proven to be a great source of comfort through her journey.
Mask: ‘I think I wanted people to think I had it all together when I didn’t at all. I didn’t want people to think I was too serious or too sad or too depressed to be around,’ she said
Hopeful: Sarah, who is pictured in the green tank before her injury, says she wants others to become more aware about mental health care
Message: ‘I think it’s important for others to know that it’s okay to have those feelings, and it’s okay to seek out professional mental health services,’ she said
Message: Sarah has been documenting her recovery progress on Instagram, @smarino22, where she regularly shares photos from her daily life
‘I’ve actually had some very amazing positive responses to my posts. It is very uplifting to hear people being inspired by me. It also has been great to connect me to the disabled community, where I have met so many inspiring and amazing individuals. It is really comforting just to see people going through the same thing as you and whom you can connect on that level.’
The young woman says that receiving more support, specifically directed towards breaking the stigma of mental health would have helped her before her suicide attempt.
‘I had so much internalized shame for feeling the way I did, I thought I was broken. I know now that I was just reacting in a human way towards external events.’
‘I think it’s important for others to know that it’s okay to have those feelings, and it’s okay to seek out professional mental health services, it doesn’t mean you’re unfixable.’
For anyone suffering from mental health issues or for those who may be thinking about taking their own life, Sarah says, ‘Do not worry about other people who do not have your best intentions at heart. Focus on yourself and recognize the signs and symptoms and what makes you feel bad.
‘Do not be afraid to seek professional treatment if you have access to it. I still talk to my counselor once a week and it is very helpful.’
‘Do not worry about the stigma, because that only further reinforces it. Also, do not be afraid to open up to people you trust if you have them in your life. Repressing emotions is not good for you and they will show back up later even stronger. If talking isn’t your thing try journaling. It sounds simple but sometimes just straightening out your thoughts on paper in front of you can help process things.’