When we first met Ahmir Steward on I Am Jazz, he seemed like the perfect first boyfriend for reality star Jazz Jennings. But it turns out that we might not have known as much about his life as we thought. In a new interview with Radar Online, he’s opening about who he is on his own terms. That includes talking about his long battle with depression over the years. According to the 19-year-old, he’s “more than what you see” on the TLC show — and now he’s ready to share his truth.

“I was portrayed a certain way [on I Am Jazz] and the fans would take it how they want and would bash me online,” Ahmir told Radar. “I’ve seen comments where people say, ‘He’s creepy, he’s weird,’ and that really had a huge affect on me when I first saw that. … You don’t know that person [that you’re criticizing on TV]. You know whatever is edited into that episode and shown to you.”

The portrayal wasn’t good for the teen’s mental health. Since filming his first season on the show, he admitted that his battle with depression “got worse” because of the way people treated him online. “When you have these issues, it can be pretty much anything at anytime and you just start panicking about it,” he said. “Then [I was] having a suicidal time. I was in and out of hospitals.”

Luckily, he seems to be doing okay these days. He’s enrolled in college and working hard — including working on himself. “I have a few journals to write in. I go to therapy,” he shared. And, of course, he’s got plenty of support from girlfriend Jazz. “Jazz has literally changed my entire life,” he gushed. “Without Jazz, I don’t know if I would even be in school in this moment. She motivated me. She still motivates me to this day. She tells me I can do anything I set my mind to – she tells me that a lot.”

Though he wouldn’t weigh in on the state of his relationship amid speculation that he and Jazz are no longer together, he’s still grateful for all she’s done with and for him. And though being on the show was harmful, in a way, it also helped him. “I started getting a lot of direct messages from people because of my mental health stuff,” he said. “People said me addressing it helped them. Even though I’m going through my own struggle, if I can help somebody, that feels good.”

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