Content Advisory: Please note the following content can be directly or indirectly related to topics about mental health, depression, suicide, and or self-harm.
Growing up, sports have always been my passion. It is what I loved to do. Looking back now, I realize that when I was young, my anxiety presented itself through those sports that I love. Little did I know that over the years that anxiety would extend further than sports and impact me in ways I had never thought it would.
I was involved in lacrosse, field hockey, and swim teams and I always held myself to the highest standards. I would hang on to every small mistake in a game and worry that I had lost it all for my team. In swimming, even adding half a second to my times would send me into a panic. I would cry and beat myself up and wonder why I wasn’t good enough to do what I needed to do to make my coaches and family proud. I would hold on to these mistakes for the rest of the day, but they would stay in the back of my head forever as a reminder that I needed to do better. This struggle didn’t end with sports. It extended into the classroom where anything less than an A would have me staying up at night wondering why I wasn’t smart enough. I would be checking my grades at least three times a day when I know my friends wouldn’t check them for weeks at a time. I never really saw any of this as an issue. I thought I was just a hard worker who wanted to be the best version of myself that I could. Looking back, I see that this is when my anxiety had started, and it only got worse from there.
Coming into college my freshman year, I was ready for a new start to life. I was ready for new friends, a new environment, and college sports. I had no idea that eventually my mental health would start taking a bigger toll on me than it ever had before.
My freshman year of lacrosse was the first time that I really noticed how much getting in my head after a mistake affected the way I played. I wasn’t the only one that could see it either. Luckily, I have a great coach who can tell when it’s happening and she can help me get out of it now, but that wasn’t always the case.
After one of my close friends took her own life during my sophomore year, my anxiety got worse, and I also began struggling with depression. This is the point where I finally talked to my parents about getting help and seeing a therapist. Sadly, I did not have a good experience with my first therapist, so I had kind of given up on that and thought that therapy was something that just wasn’t going to work for me. I had my friends and family as support and as much as I wanted that to be enough it wasn’t.
It wasn’t until the late nights not being able to sleep thinking about every mistake I had ever made, the self-harming to feel something other than anxiety and sadness, the wanting to give up any time something went wrong, and the lack of motivation to do everything I once loved to do that I realized that I needed more help. That is when I found a counseling center by my campus and started seeing my therapist and the psychiatrist there. I had already been diagnosed with severe anxiety with depression from my first therapist, but the counselor and psychiatrist at my new place have been able to really tell me what that means and get me on the right track with a combination of medication and coping mechanisms that can replace my bad habits. With their help and the support of my coaches, friends, and family, I have gotten into a routine with therapy and have seen parts of myself that were missing start to come back. I still have some ways to go with my own journey, but I am lucky to be able to feel myself starting to get back to normal.
I have turned my sadness about the loss of my friend into passion to open up conversations about mental health, especially in athletics. I am now an ambassador for the Morgan’s Message program, and I am lucky to be able to share resources and tips to the athletic community at my school.
My hope in sharing my story is that people who are struggling will see that opening up and understanding that help is out there and the most important thing you can do is help yourself. Also, don’t give up on getting help if it doesn’t work out the first time. I had to learn the hard way that you aren’t always going to get it right on the first try and that it is okay to need to try multiple people until you can find the right fit for you. I want to start conversations about mental health and stop the stigma that these conversations are uncomfortable and should be kept quiet. My goal is to be a person that anyone feels comfortable reaching out to for help and advice and I hope to be able to steer people in the right direction and get them started on their own journey towards mental health recovery. I also want people to remember to check in on their friends, even the happy ones because sometimes those with the biggest smiles hide the most pain. Remember to be kind and to spread positivity because you never know who could be struggling. For anyone reading this and struggling, know that you are not alone and that you are so loved.
Talk. Share. Help.