Mental Health. Everybody has it, but nobody wants to talk about it.
We’ve grown up in a generation where revealing our struggles is seen as a sign of weakness. We are weak if we confide in others, expressing our grief and suffering. Growing up in athletics, remaining strong and confident is the most important goal, followed closely by always being ready to perform at the absolute best. As soon as you show emotion, coaches and teammates begin to look at you as fragile. Some lose respect. Some may choose to belittle you. I would say I have been blessed with a few coaches throughout my life that truly cared about their players’ mental health. On the other hand, I have had coaches who did not. I have seen athletes deteriorate and reach their breaking point silently, without much support from those around them. Numerous times, I have reached my own breaking point and used ways of coping that are not healthy or safe. I have witnessed someone on the brink of ending their own life and it completely turned my world around. These are all things that we are not supposed to talk about as athletes. As athletes, we are guided to remain silent about our mental health, but that is not the case anymore for me.
I know individuals say “How is he/she depressed?” and “He/she has everything, why would they want to end it all?”, but what they don’t understand is every other aspect going into our lives. The constant stressors of school, work, social life, and our brains continuously telling us we are not good enough. It’s possible that these negative feelings are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Other triggers, however, may also have these harmful consequences: Past trauma, current circumstances, and frequent change are just a few of the factors that can lead to depression. For me, there are days where I wake up in the morning and feel like a completely different individual and do not want to get out of bed. I had and still have days where I’ll have multiple anxiety attacks. I began to completely self sabotage and used self-inflicted emotional and physical pain to cope with the many insecurities I was faced with. Am I saying these worked? Of course they did NOT. They were distractions used to disengage from the real problems.
Thankfully, within the last few years I have been blessed with the best resources and individuals I could receive. Yes, I speak to a psychologist. Yes, I am taking antidepressants. And yes, I am completely okay with sharing that information. When I first began speaking with a psychologist I was embarrassed by it. I truthfully did not want anyone to know. The same feeling occurred when I began taking my antidepressants. The stigma that continues to circle around mental health is eating away at many individuals because they are ashamed of their struggles. This is the exact reason that this stigma must end. We need to start being open to having these hard conversations with people before it becomes too late.
A few takeaways I have learned not only as an athlete, but a human:
Your sport, job, and talent level, does not define you as a person.
When you need help, ask. There are so many individuals that are struggling with the same thing and you might not know who it is.
You are 100% loved by somebody just the way you are.
Love always– K