By Tami Mosser / Staff Writer
Posted Apr 13, 2018 at 12:37 PMUpdated Apr 13, 2018 at 1:58 PM
WOOSTER — Before Josh Ruminski was old enough to drive, he’d already attempted suicide twice.
He believes the anxiety and depression that haunted him were genetic — both his mother and his grandfather have had the same struggle.
But Ruminski, now 18, was able to get help. And he wants to make sure others have that same chance.
He is the founder and owner of the Happy Thoughts Candle Co., which is growing its customer base throughout the region and has made its first foray into Wayne County, via the Uptown Downtown Emporium in downtown Wooster.
Twenty percent of all sales of Ruminski’s scented candle, packages of candle tarts and warmers go to suicide prevention programs.
“I’ve always felt like I had to prove my worth to people,” said Ruminski, who began his community service at just 6 years old, providing tomato sauce to homeless shelters. By 12, he said, “I got very depressed, not knowing what my purpose in life was.”
An intense child who admitted he was more interested in NASA than pop culture, Ruminski was bullied at school as a “teacher’s pet” and made fun of because he was short and thin — which led him to the brink of an eating disorder.
But his grades never slipped and no one at his school suspected anything was amiss.
“I was never at peace,” Ruminski said of his 12-year-old self, “because I’d always have these negative thoughts running through my head.”
He found there was quiet in his head only when he slept. He decided a permanent sleep was the solution.
Ruminski tried hanging himself.
He survived, but found himself bouncing from one counselor to the next, trying to find a fit. In the meantime, he moved from the west side of Cleveland to the east side and to a new school where he was a minority in a place where everyone stuck to the people familiar to them.
And then his step-grandfather — the only person Ruminski said took the time to talk to him — died.
Then 15, Ruminski tried slitting his throat.
This time, he spent a few days in a hospital psychiatric ward, then found a counselor, as well as a psychiatrist and a nutritionist and an intensive outpatient group.
Medication helped, but Ruminski also credits therapy, which led him to the mindfulness that sustains him. “If a (negative) thought comes in,” he said, “notice it ... and let it pass.”
Stirring candle wax can be very therapeutic, which is good, considering Ruminski is making 96 candles a night in his home.
The standard candle, which sells for $7, is housed in a simple tin can. Ruminski buys them at discount stores, like Save-A-Lot, and drains out the tomato sauce, which he then bags, freezes, and donates to homeless shelters.
The can gets a candle, a label and a message: 1-800-273-8255 or text 74141.
It’s the number, he said, of a suicide hotline.
The business is growing, so much so that Ruminski’s mother most likely will leave her full-time job to dedicate more time to it as her son prepares to attend John Carroll University in the fall. He will have a double major in international business and psychology, with an emphasis on mental health services.
Ruminski knows now that he is not alone in his struggles — and he wants others to know they’re not alone, either. To them, “I would say first, that it is OK not to be OK,” Ruminski said. “Yes, there are a lot of things we cannot control. But this, too, shall pass and happier days are to come.”
In the meantime, Ruminski is growing his business (his candles came to the Uptown Downtown through dealer Arleen McAllister of Medina, who saw the Happy Thoughts Facebook page), giving interviews and planning for the future.
“We understand the compassion and we want to advocate to society, to change norms, and make our world a more comforting place,” Ruminski said on his website, “through our Happy Thoughts.”
Reporter Tami Mosser can be reached at 330-287-1655 or email@example.com.