When people see me, they see a hard-working undergraduate student and athlete. Many think that I have it all together because I’m on a team and/or have above-average grades. What they do not know is the mental battle I have endured as an undergraduate student. What people do not understand is that people that seemingly have it all together actually are facing demons far greater than anyone can imagine. Throughout undergrad, I have suffered from anxiety, specifically with multiple panic attacks. I simply did not have time to address them, deal with them, and tried to suppress them like a small cut underneath a band aid. They got progressively worse until I reached my breaking point last year and had severe anxiety attacks for about two weeks, in the middle of my soccer season, in the middle of traveling, and in the middle of trying to keep myself together to get into medical school.
What people do not understand is that unlike an ACL tear, sprained ankle, or broken foot, anxiety attacks are an injury of their own and can encompass every part of your being. It feels like you are being dunked underwater trying to push your arms up to get a breath, but cannot stop the rate of your heart, the shaking of your hands and cannot get your mind and body to stop racing for even one second. I am not naive enough to believe I have no idea the root of the cause of these panic attacks.
One of the best qualities about myself is that I am extremely driven to succeed. At the same time, this is also one of my worst qualities. I put a crazy amount of pressure on myself to be this “perfect” individual in others’ eyes and especially my own. The constant battle between that person everyone wants me to be and who I actually am, a 21-year-old girl that struggles with anxiety requires courage. It requires strength, perseverance, and resiliency. To keep getting to practice, to get homework done, to get preparations ready for medical school, to have enough on my resume, to spend 20 plus hours on my sport, to study for exams and to seem as though I have it all together.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay to not be okay and it’s okay to take a night to get into bed early, put on a face mask, and light a candle. It’s okay If I have to say no to people and cannot do every activity they ask. It’s okay to take a mental day-off and regroup because I matter, and my mental health matters. Rely on your friends and family, but also rely on yourself to check-in every day on how you are feeling.
Now, I am on the student athlete advisory committee for student athlete welfare and have started a cause for suicide prevention and ending the stigma around mental health. We have started to create “Yoga Nights” for student athletes to relieve stress and support ending the stigma of mental health. We’re in this together and can overcome our obstacles.