Hi, I am Kaitlyn Govea. I play catcher and third base at Siena College, and this is my story.
I have always struggled with mental health. Nobody really knew that about me because I was so good at hiding it and putting a smile on my face. I honestly don’t even think my parents knew that I struggled in high school because I was just that good at hiding it.
As an athlete, I have always struggled with anxiety. It started when I began to look at colleges to play at, and with this day and age, it was at around 7th grade. I had all of these dreams and possibilities. I wanted to be the best and do the best, on the field and off the field. And that was the problem, anxiety struck. I began to have thoughts running through my head “If I did this, how would I get here?” “If I did this, will colleges want me?” “If I did this, would I be able to conquer my dreams?” Everything I did, I had thoughts running through my head. I was expected to be the best on the field while also being the best in the classroom. I struggled throughout high school, but I didn’t know the worst was yet to come.
I started college in the fall of 2019. And right off the bat, I felt depression and anxiety. I moved away from home to New York from California. I didn’t have any family there… I just had softball and school. Any student athlete at a Division 1 level, especially a freshman, is going to have anxiety. But I think the depression was starting to kick me in the butt.
You may ask what I did to help my thoughts… I partied. Not the best idea.
After spending 3 months at school, I was finally able to go home for Christmas Break, depression was not at bad, but anxiety was up. We were expected to keep the same workout regimen as if we were at school, while I was also trying to throw my depression away. I got back to school ready to attack the softball season while also attacking my mental health issues. Everything was going great, anxiety still high, but depression was still not there as much, and then COVID hit. Our season was cancelled, school turned online, I was sent home. I had nothing going for me.
My depression skyrocketed through the roof, and my anxiety lowered, due to the fact I had no softball from March to September. I was alone in my room every day, waking up for classes and workouts, going back to bed, and doing it all over again the next day. Life was rough, and when we were finally able to go back to school in September, I felt a big weight lifted off my shoulders. Maybe realizing how much I missed softball might make me be happy again at softball and at school. Well, that didn’t last. I pulled a muscle in my foot and was out for 2 out of the 3 months of the fall semester. Depression kicked in… Isolation kicked in… Loneliness kicked in… and thoughts kicked in. I was at my low again.
Once I got home to my family for our 3 month long winter break, I just worked out every day. And it was honestly the happiest times of my life. I not only gained muscle, but I also gained a great relationship and new bond with my uncle. He trained me and wanted me to get as strong as possible in the gym. He made me happy. Knowing that if I push myself like I should, he would be proud of me. During the 3 month break, I ended up getting COVID, and it really took a toll on me mentally and physically. On top of that, my great grandma also passed away. It was one of the worst days of my life. And there it went, my depression sky rocketed. I was back to being the “Normal” Kaitlyn who is depressed, isolated, and putting on a fake smile.
I get back to school, and I thought to myself that my great grandma would want me to fight, fight for the starting spot, fight for playing time, and fight to be there. So I did… Until about 2 weeks in. I ended up tearing my labrum in my shoulder. I was out for the season and needed surgery. All that hard work I put in during the winter break went to waste. I was useless to my team, to the sport, and to me. I went to practices watching my spot be taken away, watching the girls having a good time, while I sit there with a brace hoping that I can get back on the field. I think at this point, my depression and anxiety were the worst they have ever been. They were attacking me from every perspective I took on things, every little thing I did. It was like I had anxiety on one shoulder and depression on the other talking to me throughout the day. It was horrible. I struggled with this from March to around July.
The constant thoughts going though my mind. It wasn’t until I was able to hit in July where I began to feel like I was that 10 year old girl that was having the best time of her life on the softball field. I felt like a little kid playing the sport she loves. I was excited to get back and excited to step on that softball field. But when I got back, anxiety really crept in, “Can I ever get back to normal?” “Can I even throw the ball as hard as these girls?” “Am I able to play the sport I love without thoughts rolling through my head?” Everyday, these thoughts and feelings occurred. After a meeting and practice, I realized I wasn’t good enough anymore, and I might never get back to that.
It shut me down. I went back to my apartment, cried to my parents on the phone, cried in my bed, and then something felt off. My heart started racing, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I went to the emergency room, and there I was diagnosed with a panic attack. They sent me to my doctor to figure things out and talk to him about it. I talked to my doctor, he had me fill out two sides of a piece of paper, one being about anxiety, one being about depression. My results were high for both. I was then diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and was immediately put on meds.
At this point, I realized I needed help. I can’t just rely on meds, I need professional help, someone to talk to. I talked to my coaches about my mental health, and they told me that they were there for me and that I should really see a therapist. I saw the therapist the next day, and she was so insightful. We talked for a full hour… she gave me pointers on how to slow down a panic attack, how to try to get rid of my thoughts, and some things I could do at home. And I followed exactly what she did. I began doing breathing exercises in the locker room before practice and before I stepped on the field. I began to write in a journal and dedicated about 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night to focus on me and self love. And this tremendously helped. I began to feel like that 10 yr old girl with no care in the world. I had a meeting with my coaches just to update them, and my head coach told me that she could see a huge improvement and can see that I’m finally happy with the teammates around me. I felt like yes, I have depression and anxiety, but I was conquering it.
The message in my story is that you can conquer this. With the right help, you can conquer anything. Let someone take your hand and guide you through this. It may not seem like it now, but it does get better. I promise you. Keep fighting and wanting to conquer all, and you will indeed conquer depression and anxiety.
Thank you for letting me share my story. And if anybody needs help, use this foundation as a resource and even use me. Good luck to everyone out there struggling with mental health… You are not alone, and you will get through this.
Written by: Kaitlyn Govea