Back in February, I did something that I never thought I’d be able to accomplish and it all started with my first ever blog post, published one year ago. A simple piece with such a big message took me down a road I never even imagined. Now, the piece didn’t go viral but it led me to speak louder and present the piece as a speech. After months of preparation, this piece has reached new heights and led me to the biggest accomplishment of my life: a state championship.
I never did get to fully open up about what that medal really meant to me, so I figured: why not now? The topic is a touchy subject but my whole goal was to open up a conversation. I presented my speech to several panels of judges and numerous ones have commended me on my bravery and told me that my words had opened their minds. That is all I could ask for. The medal itself doesn’t mean much, the idea that I impacted someone with my words is what really made it all worth it.
I decided to go back to my roots and start blogging again. All I hope is to continue touching people’s lives with my work.
So for a trip down memory lane, here is my new and improved version of my first post:
Inside the Mind of a Successful Student-Athlete
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 peak through the clouds. I’m so out of it lately and I’ve lost a lot of motivation. I’m obsessed with perfectionism and it’s the highest level of self-abuse. I’m fighting this war inside my head and I don’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. 1 in every 4 Americans struggle with some kind of mental disorder and only half of those people will seek treatment, however, myself and millions of other people’s emotions are brushed off. There is a stigma in our society surrounding mental health and it needs to be broken.
So let’s talk about it…
I am a 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 volleyball career. I seem to have it all, except I don’t. I struggle with high-functioning anxiety. Which means on the outside I seem to have everything put together, but deep down beneath my seemingly-perfect exterior I am a hot mess and filled with so much fear, nervous habits, and a brain that races a million miles per minute. On top of that, Being an elite student-athlete is demanding. I was living in a world where the “best don’t rest” and I didn’t understand the difference between hard work and pushing yourself too far.
Because here’s the thing…
an athlete is never supposed to appear weak. 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 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 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 because on the outside you are always the happiest girl around, 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?
3 years ago I was on the verge of committing suicide. I remember my cry for help so clearly. I showed my scars for the first time and finally said that I was not okay. I started seeking help and while my recovery has been an uphill battle, I now realize that I never wanted to die, I just wanted a break. I hope one day I will be able to openly talk about my mental illness without shame and to start a discussion where people could be open and honest about their own struggles too. This is my way of starting a conversation about the stigma, now it’s your turn to talk about it.