Beating The Mental Health Stigma: Inside the Mind of a Successful Student-Athlete​

Starting the Conversation

I’ve fallen into a weird state of mind. I’m not exactly under a constant storm cloud but a majority of my days have been pretty cloudy with random bursts of sunlight that peaks through the clouds. I’m so out of it lately and I’ve lost a lot of motivation. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m trying to be perfect but I’m obsessed with perfectionism. My state of perfectionism is the highest level of self-abuse and it’s killing me inside. I have this unreachable picture in my head and I’m so disappointed in myself every day that I don’t own up to it. I really just want to be myself again but I’ve been sucked into this constant state of feeling worthless, constantly feeling irrelevant, constantly feeling like I’ve lost who I really am on the inside. I’m constantly fighting this war and I can’t see the end coming anytime soon. I hide so much pain behind an innocent smile. I’m hurting deep down inside but I just can’t show it. It’s hard living in my skin every day pretending to be someone I’m really not.

 

But the sad thing is that these feelings are so common but are never talked about. There are so many people in this world feeling these things just as I do, however, myself and millions of other people are brushed off.

 

So let’s talk about it…

 

My name is Hailey Bianco and I am the poster child for a student-athlete; a straight-A student, a leader on and off the court, a great team player, and overall a talented athlete on my way to starting my college career. I seemed to have it all, except I didn’t. Somewhere along the road, I developed anxiety, more specifically high-functioning anxiety. I had this urge to be perfect, I’d freak out over a B on my report card and worry I’d lose my starting spot after a bad game. For the longest time, I thought it was normal to be like this, to me it just meant I was dedicated. I was so wrapped up in this little world of unreachable perfection that I actually became depressed and I didn’t even know. I don’t know exactly when it happened to me, I didn’t even know what it really meant to have a mental disorder. I always thought that I could never have one because I’m always so happy. Little did I know that my brain stopped producing chemicals normally which caused my brain to not be able to communicate correctly, and that’s when I started showing symptoms of a mental disorder.

 

However, as an athlete, I’m supposed to push all those feelings aside and perform like my life depends on it. 8 a.m. conditioning, 2 practices a day, and games nearly every day. Most nights I don’t get home until 9 p.m. but I don’t get to rest just yet because I’ve got mountains of homework and studying to do for my AP classes. I wake up the next morning with 5 hours of sleep if I’m lucky because usually, it’s 3, just to do it all again.

 

But here’s the thing…

 

Athletes aren’t supposed to appear weak, especially when they’re expected to lead the team. Unless we are physically injured we can’t stop because pain is just weakness leaving the body. No one cares what happened before the game, when you put on that uniform on none of it matters because if you don’t perform, you’re letting everyone down. Except no one can see that your brain is injured, they don’t know about the tears you shed in the locker room because you were so overwhelmed by everything. They don’t know how hard it is for you to get out of bed every morning just to get by. They don’t understand how much you beat yourself up in your own mind because on the outside you are achieving so much. They don’t know how unhappy you are on the inside because you are always the happiest girl, except somewhere along the road that “happy girl” started faking it because she was told “fake it until you make it,” but what happens if you never do make it? The general population needs to get this through their head: it’s not something I can cry about then wake up the next morning cured.

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