Driven to near-suicide by a friend’s death, she finds hope, courage, and a cause

Former Downers Grove South setter Addy Karmik (11) struggled with anxiety, depression and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the death of club teammate Beth Dunlap.
Former Downers Grove South setter Addy Karmik survived a suicide attempt and now advocates for mental health awareness.

By Matt Le Cren
Special to Illprepvb.com

Addy Karmik suffered in silence for too long.

Now she is determined to ensure others don’t do the same.

Karmik, the former Downers Grove South setter who is an incoming freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, is raising money for mental health awareness and research through an organization called Hope for the Day.

The cause is deeply personal for Karmik, who survived a suicide attempt in January.

“It’s kind of a funny story how I decided to do this fundraiser,” Karmik said. “I was getting nagged by my grandma for (a list of) birthday gifts.

“I didn’t know what I wanted. I don’t really need material things and I didn’t want to ask for money when I didn’t know what I was going to use it for.”

So Karmik decided to do what’s called a “reverse birthday” gift.

“I remember that there were these cases where little kids would ask for a bunch of pairs of shoes for their birthday and then donate them to kids that don’t have any shoes,” Karmik said.

“I thought that would be really cool if I did that as a thank you to everybody who’s helped me through thick and thin.

“It’s difficult to reach out to every single person who positively impacted me, so I was like, might as well raise money for a cause.”

Karmik’s effort, which began shortly after her 18th birthday in May, has raised more than $5,500 in donations. Her original goal was $400, but people responded to her raw, honest and heart-wrenching post on the fundraising website.

“It blew my mind to see how many people read my story,” Karmik said. “There were people from middle school that I hadn’t talked to in years, and some of my dad’s coworkers and people at (Downers Grove) North.

“It was pretty mind-blowing to see (that reaction to) something that I look at as not that big of a deal. The foundation uses that money to educate people and do more research into mental health and try to end the stigma around it.”

The stigma is one reason why Karmik told few people outside her family about her struggles with anxiety, depression and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Normally a happy-go-lucky person, she was knocked off kilter by the death of her fellow setter and club teammate, Downers Grove North star Beth Dunlap, who died February 22, 2019, after being struck by a drunk driver while crossing the street outside her school.

“When she passed, it was a lengthy process of trying to stay positive while trying to be realistic,” Karmik said. “That’s why I think it was such a difficult time for me and the rest of my team and best friends.

Beth Dunlap (left) was killed by a drunk driver while walking to school in February 2019.

“I never really noticed, but I was definitely numbing myself throughout the season.”

Karmik first saw a therapist that May, which helped for a while. But as the pain increased, Karmik told her father, Rick, who worked in psychiatric hospitals for 20 years, that she needed to see someone else and maybe go on medication.

The medication helped at first, but Karmik began having suicidal thoughts in December.

“It was a scary experience,” Karmik said. “My parents didn’t see the warning signs because it happened so suddenly.

“One day I was fine. The next I was like, ‘We need to go to the hospital because I don’t feel safe.’”

Doctors increased the dosage of her medication, but then came the suicide attempt, again seemingly out of the blue.

“If you had asked me the day before, I would have said things are good and not a care in the world,” Karmik said. “Then the next day it just kind of happened.

“It was really hard for my parents and friends and therapists to understand. I didn’t actually want to die. I love and still love my life.

“That was traumatizing for everyone around me, and it was even harder for me to see everyone reacting that way when I was sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, it doesn’t feel like that big of a deal.’”

Karmik felt that way because she was in a dissociative state. In layman’s terms, it means a person’s feelings are turned off.

“Sometimes my body would just do that,” Karmik said. “I would just push it all down until you start realizing, ‘Oh, there’s a lot going on that I need to deal with.’ It just seemed impossible to even take a bite out of it.

“Dissociation is really difficult to describe what it feels like if you haven’t experienced it. That was definitely one of the hardest parts of the whole entire journey.”

Through a hospital stay and outpatient therapy, Karmik gradually got better. Though her battle continues, today Karmik is in a better place. She arrived in Green Bay last week to meet her new teammates and begin conditioning for her freshman season.

“I feel I’m in a really good mental state and a have really good communication with my parents, my teammates and the coaches,” Karmik said. “But it’s still difficult to help them understand what it felt like. You can’t just show people what you felt.”

But communication is necessary. Former Neuqua Valley star Bailey Houlihan, who is an incoming freshman libero at Memphis, was a club teammate of Karmik’s and is a close friend.

“I’ve only known her since last year, but we have grown so tight and companionable on and off the court,” Houlihan said. “Beth’s sudden death just broke everyone’s heart on the team. Right after that happened, we played that weekend and we were all bawling out.

“Addy was just so brave. She was very assertive. We’ve always gotten along, but that’s when we really grew tight.”

Even so, Houlihan was shocked to hear of the suicide attempt.

“I was speechless when she told me,” Houlihan said. “She was at home and I said, ‘Why are you home?’

“She told me and I was like, ‘Wow, did you tell your parents?’ She said, ‘Yes, I told them and I’m going to get help.’ She went to an outpatient program which was really good for her.”

The outpatient program allowed Karmik to finish school and go to volleyball practice.

“Volleyball is her stress reliever,” Houlihan said. “You would have never guessed how hard it is for her because at practice she’s just goofy.

“We’ll do the stupidest stuff on the court. I’m just so proud of her and how she’s gotten through everything.”

Karmik first heard of Hope for the Day through her mother, Cyndi, a guidance counselor at Downers Grove North. The organization gave a presentation at North and after researching it, Karmik decided to get involved.

“I read through some of the stories and I didn’t really see anything like mine, sharing a personal story, and I really wanted to get my experience out there,” Karmik said.

“Because when I came back to school, a lot of people were wondering where I was, if I was OK, and it’s difficult to explain in a five-minute passing period that you are OK, but there’s also a lot more that went into it than I was just at the hospital.”

Even without the success of the fundraiser, the effort was worth it for Karmik.

“For me that was therapeutic in one sense,” Karmik said. “It’s like writing a letter about something that you’re really mad about and then burning it. You get it out, and it doesn’t affect anyone around you.

“But this is a way that I can get it out and positively affect people around me. It’s just something that I felt like I was called to do, just to help other people.”

To read Karmik’s post or to contribute to her fundraiser, visit https://my.hftd.org/fundraiser/2755550.

Out of the darkness, she has found her light.

“I made it to my 18th birthday when I potentially could have been 17 forever in everyone’s memory,” Karmik said. “I think my main goal in life is just to uplift others. I thought (the fundraiser) was a really good way to do it.”

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