Mental illness has been the most challenging setback in my life. I have been diagnosed with various mental health disorders over the past ten years, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
I began struggling with many aspects of my life that came naturally to me before, such as doing well in school, being a top athlete, and having a lot of friends. I did not know why this was happening. I associated my lack of success with being incompetent as an individual, instead of an underlying mental illness. After realizing that my mental health was the root cause of this, I decided not to speak up. The stigma associated with mental health is real. I did not want to be perceived as weak by coaches, teammates, and peers. I refused to put myself in that situation.
I went on without talking about what I was going through for a while. I insisted on pretending that I was okay. Over time my mind became so unhealthy that I could no longer function well. I stopped going to school. I quit playing sports. I ended up reaching a point where I stayed in my room all day, lying on my bed. I would close my eyes and wish everything I was thinking and feeling would go away. I wanted to escape my body.
I have a supportive family who tried providing me with the resources I needed. However, for a while, I refused. I let my pride and ignorance get the best of me. I would tell myself that if I went to a therapy session or worked with a Psychiatrist, I would never forgive myself; I thought that it would mean I was accepting that I was not only weak but “Different.”
I became very unhappy throughout high school. I was hard on myself since I was not meeting my expectations, and I was trying to be too perfect. I put a lot of pressure on myself.
Life became much more demanding by the time I got to college. Juggling school work while playing a varsity sport was very difficult for me compared to high school. After a month or two, I reached a point where it was as if I was right back where I started. I could not shake the negative feelings or compulsive thoughts.
During my first semester of college I almost failed all of my classes, and was unable to play the second half of the season because of extenuating circumstances. At that point, I needed to get help. It seemed like everything depended on it.
After my first therapy session and psychiatrist appointment, I soon realized that there was no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed that I was getting help. I started feeling better and better as time went on. I learned some tools that helped me cope with my racing thoughts. The medications I started taking help with the stubborn depression. My performance on the field improved. My performance off the field improved. I started hanging with teammates more and making friends.