scorecard'Teen Mom' Maci Boookout: When I made myself a priority, that's when the journey of healing genuinely started.
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'Teen Mom' Maci Boookout: When I made myself a priority, that's when the journey of healing genuinely started.

Nandini Maharaj   

'Teen Mom' Maci Boookout: When I made myself a priority, that's when the journey of healing genuinely started.
EntertainmentEntertainment3 min read
  • Maci Bookout witnessed a shooting at a gas station while filming for MTV.
  • She struggled with anxiety and flashbacks until she decided to focus on healing.

"I am definitely strides ahead from where I was two years ago," Maci Bookout told Insider. In 2020, while filming season 9 of "Teen Mom OG" Bookout witnessed a shooting at a gas station. In later episodes, she spoke about experiencing ongoing effects of trauma, which include being hypervigilant and easily startled by loud noises like popping balloons.

After struggling with anxiety and flashbacks from the incident, Bookout realized that she needed to face her emotions head-on and work through them rather than "just recognizing them and hoping they get better," she said. To heal genuinely, she needed to make herself more of a priority in her daily life.

Bookout's advice for anyone dealing with trauma is "to have patience with yourself. Don't rush or force anything. And don't be afraid to sit with your feelings and create a safe space within yourself."

Getting to a better place mentally and emotionally

Having the support of her family and friends has helped Bookout move forward since the shooting. Other times, she prefers to work through her feelings on her own, explaining that sometimes it's the only way "to really learn about yourself and how you want to handle things."

"I don't always need other people around me to know what I'm going through because it's just something I have to figure out," she said, adding that this might look like giving herself 30 minutes a day to be alone with her thoughts and reflect on how she's feeling.

"At the end of the 30 minutes you might leave feeling like, 'I have no answers and I'm in the same spot I was when I first sat down,'" she said. "But I think subconsciously, you work through things and let some toxins out when you give yourself a little space and time."

Talking to kids about mental health

"I don't think there's a time that's too early for people to talk to their kids about mental health and to share their own experiences or struggles," Bookout said. "I feel like it creates an open, safe dialogue with your kids."

Conversations about mental health started with her 13-year-old son, Bentley, when he was in the first or second grade. Sometimes Bentley would bring things up that had happened at school or conversations he'd had with friends.

"He's not a kid anymore. Really, he's in the trenches right now," she said, reflecting on what it's like for Bentley, who's currently in middle school and thinking ahead to high school.

With her younger kids — 7-year-old Jayde and 6-year-old Maverick — talking about mental health started even earlier. "Jayde and Maverick are usually a part of the conversation or at least in the car with us or in the same room so, it's just naturally integrated into parenting because of the conversations we have with Bentley," Bookout said.

Knowing when to disconnect from social media

For anyone dealing with online bullying or harassment, Bookout recommended disconnecting, at least for a little while. She acknowledged that going offline isn't possible for everyone, especially if they earn a living through social media.

If disconnecting isn't an option, Bookout suggested changing your social-media settings and blocking or filtering out specific words or phrases that you consider vulgar or offensive. In addition to tuning out negative comments, she talked about making sure to connect with the right people online.

"Start following people on social media who love themselves and empower you," Bookout said. "The truest form of human empowerment is watching someone be happy with themselves, but at the same time, they want to take you with them."

Speaking publicly about healing

Perhaps the one downside to being open about mental health is the vulnerability it takes to share her struggles publicly. "It's scary to talk about it for everyone to see and judge and for them to talk about it," Bookout said.

"When I sign up to do the show, year after year, it's very much with the intention of being authentic and sharing my true self and my struggles and showing up as me whether it's a good season of life or a hard season of life," she said.

What's helped her stay true to herself is prioritizing her mental health. She doesn't read the tabloids and comments on social media. "I'm a very headstrong person and I've always been prideful of my ability to know when to care and when not to care," she said.

Her hope is that, by sharing her story, other people will relate to it and feel less alone in what they're going through. "It's kind of how you survive living your life for everyone to see all the time," Bookout said.

Nandini Maharaj is a freelance writer covering health, wellness, identity, and relationships. She holds a master's degree in counseling and a Ph.D. in public health.