Hello my name is Julian Arroyo, I play football and have depression and anxiety. I am a senior at Irvington High School and am committed to Whittier College to get a degree in psychology and further my playing career in football. I have an amazing family and girlfriend by my side whenever I get down. Things are going well right now, but that was not always the case. My family is prone to mental illnesses, my mother, one of my sisters, and my two aunts all have depression. Most, if not all, of my family has anxiety as well. It can be challenging dealing with all of the chaos my family brings to the table, but at the end we always are there for each other and have each other’s back.
My story starts in kindergarten where I was diagnosed with anxiety. I spent four years in between preschool and kindergarten. Not only did I have to deal with my anxiety disorder itself, but separation anxiety from my mother as well. This caused me to go from preschool, to kindergarten, back to preschool, then finish off kindergarten. It is always hard going back and remembering those times. I can remember the faces and stares I used to get from other students and then them coming up to me asking why do I always cry. Thankfully I had a therapist named Sharon, a staff member named Mrs. Maria, and really supportive teachers who understood me and were always there for me. Looking back on it, elementary school was a good time and experience, but then there is the second half of my sixth grade year.
In around February/March of my sixth grade year, I found out my parents were getting a divorce. That shattered my heart. Every kid believes that their parents are soulmates and they will die happily ever after together like in the movies. Well the truth hit me like a runaway train in that instance. Shortly after the announcement of the parents’ divorce came out came the reason, my father cheated on my mother and then left us for a new family. Ever since then he has come back in and out from my life. Middle school was tough, students learn about a lot of new things in middle school not just academically, but socially as well. Not only did the divorce weigh a huge impact on myself, but my best friend since kindergarten, who I call my brother, moved schools. My anchor at school was gone. Luckily, I found my new anchor who could never leave me, football. In seventh and eighth grade, I played flag football and not to brag was pretty good at it. Before football I tried soccer, swimming, and archery, but none of them were like football. Football boosted my self confidence, helped me gain new friends, and helped my grades go back up. I finished middle school and was now on to high school.
In high school, I played quarterback. Playing quarterback is a tough job, not only do I have to throw the ball but read the defense and know not just my own, but everybody’s job and assignment on offense. My freshmen year was spent on JV, but after that I would spend my remaining years on Varsity. Not only did I play football, but baseball as well. Spent two years of JV and my last season on Varsity. I would always enjoy my time as a baseball player, but it did not have the impact on me like football did. I’ve faced many opponents both on the gridiron and diamond, but my biggest opponent wasn’t’ one of them. At the end of my freshmen year, I was diagnosed with depression. My grades dropped, my energy and motivation dropped, and I felt like I wasn’t even myself. Depression was the worst opponent I’ve ever had to face. No matter how much I prepared for it, it came at me and hitstick me down into the dirt. It would strike of course with triggers, but also at random moments. A great example of this would be in one of my junior year football games. Game three of the season, I was doing good, hit a groove and was playing some of my best football. The night before the game I was missing my father and decided to text him at night telling him about how much I missed him and when could I see him again. No answer. My emotions were high and I was thinking about ending my life all together. Throughout high school I’ve battles with the demons of self-harm and suicide. They got the best of me in some cases, but I never let them finish me. Then, I woke up in the morning with no answer. Checked my phone throughout the day in school, no answer. Finally came puting my gear on for the game, I tried moving on from it and focusing on football. Then came a buzz, my dad replied with a lame excuse and told me he missed and loved me too. I could tell he was lying with his excuse, I’ve dealt with my father and his mind games before and now have gotten how to read them and fight back. Between the night before and that day my emotions were pouring over and then I had to enter a football game. My worst football game ever. My mind and body were working together and it was a terrible game. Luckily for me I have a great and supportive coaching staff who understand my story. That is the story I tell for how dangerous depression can be. Depression cannot only mess you up mentally and emotionally, but physically as well. Depression did not let me throw a football. It is impossible to completely get rid of depression, it’s a chemical hormonal imbalance, but there are things I do to help reduce and limit it.
- Family: “Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.” I am beyond blessed in this category to have an amazing and supportive family by my side. Everyone on my mother’s side of the family is extremely supportive of me and my situation and will be by my side no matter what. Not only blood family, but my girlfriend and her family are really supportive and caring not only to me, but my family too. My best friend since kindergarten Dominic, is here for me whether I am having a good day or bad day.
- Sports: Football has not only given me a distraction and home outside of home, but a brotherhood and amazing coaches who are father figures for myself. I know football is not for everyone, but sports in general help relieve stress, build lifelong bonds, and distract you from the outside world.
- Exercise: I enjoy working out and getting a good sweat out. Something about getting out and getting in a good workout really benefits me. The physical takes over the mental and emotional. Not only that, but the way you feel emotionally and mentally after a workout feels amazing.
- Therapy: I have been going to therapy since the end of my sixth grade year and now a senior, so seven years. Therapy has helped me so much, I cannot stress it enough. I learned how not only to handle situations, but more about myself. Everybody on the planet should have a therapist. My one piece of advice is do not settle on a therapist. I went through two different therapists before I found my therapist Steve. Steve has helped me so much, I plan on majoring in psychology and becoming a therapist just like him. The way he has helped me grow, I want to do that for people.
- Pets: Having a pet is great for people with depression and anxiety, I have turtles, fish, and dogs. Looking at and hearing the sound of water calms me when I am anxious or depressed. Dogs are man’s best friend, they are extremely loyal and loveable companions. Whatever pet you want or have, they will bring so much joy into your world.
- Outdoors: I love being in the outdoors and enjoy hiking, playing sports, fishing, and hunting. Being out and enjoying nature gives me spiritual relief and makes me feel like my problems are small and how great the world is. Whether it be a national park or the creek right by your home, I advise going out and appreciating nature.
- Meditation: Doing yoga and meditation helps not only relieve my emotional and mental stress, but my physical stress too. Thanks to youtube, guided yoga and meditations in general and specifically for depression and anxiety can be accessed for free.
- Antidepressants: Going to your doctor or psychiatrist and bringing up antidepressants can help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. My psychiatrist put me on Lexapro and using that plus the other things that I’ve found helpful has really helped me become the young man I am today.
- Sharing your story: I understand the struggles of being vulnerable about your struggles and inner demons, but there are a lot of other people going through similar things to you. Feeling alone whether it be feeling as if you are the only ongoing throughout this battle or not wanting to drag someone into this with you is common with depression and anxiety. Sharing your story will not only connect you with people going through the same things you are, but maybe help someone you do not know get through something very hard such as depression and anxiety.
Written by: Julian Arroyo