Today’s #SameHere🤙Hero: “Melissa”
Some ask me if folks who share anonymously are “less effective” than those who reveal most all. The answer is, I believe anyone who shares in ANY way, for the benefit of helping others, to show them they’re not alone, is a hero & their stories are just as effective.
Melissa’s story is different from most we have shared. She speaks of very few, if any, life traumas or challenges. Instead she describes how well she had it. She developed depression nonetheless, & as many times as she tried to “kick it” or move on, “it” kept coming back. It appears as though Melissa’s challenges come mainly from a genetic predisposition.
What’s fascinatingly real, raw, & actually a little unfortunate, is that Melissa feels more comfortable sharing anonymously with us, than directly her w her college sports teammates. Once again, if we think as a society that the barriers have all come down, we are wrong. Here is a first-hand example. We must get through to those “4 in 5.” Thanks for helping us make some progress towards that, Melissa.
“Growing up my life was pretty great. I came from your typical suburban family. In HS I was completely ignorant to the idea of mental health. I had no idea what mental health was, & I had no idea that it was something that would have a huge impact on my life. In HS I was the poster-child for overachieving. I ended up getting an athletic scholarship to a Division 1 school.
My freshman year I made friends & thrived both academically & athletically. But, sophomore year something inside me changed. I wasn’t myself. I hated my classes, I didn’t enjoy sports anymore, & I was constantly crying. I had zero motivation to do anything. I just wanted to sleep & cry all the time. I had no idea what was going on w me.
One day at practice I just started crying in the middle of a conditioning session. I couldn’t stop crying as I ran around the track. I ended up talking to one of my coaches after practice ended & explained everything to her. She helped me make an appointment at our school’s counseling center. After some thinking I decided that I should transfer.
I thought that all of this sadness was due to the fact that I was at a school that wasn’t right for me. My junior year I started at a new university & absolutely loved it. I loved my classes & teammates. I felt like everything that I had experienced was just due to being in a bad situation. But, senior year things changed. I noticed myself starting to experience those same symptoms of depression, so I reached out to a therapist.
I was so confused by my feelings because I had so many great things going on in my life. I didn’t understand why I was depressed. I was doing great in my classes & I was having a fantastic season. But, I was struggling more than ever before. I was trying to appear okay when I went to class & practice but inside I was battling suicidal thoughts & trying to keep everything together.
Eventually my therapist suggested that I might have a genetic predisposition. Hearing this brought up a lot of emotions. In a sense I was relieved, knowing that it wasn’t just ‘all in my head’ or that I was just ‘overreacting.’ At the same time I was scared. Hearing that everything I was experiencing was genetic scared me because I thought that meant I would struggle w this for my whole life.
I’m still trying to make sense of everything that has gone on over the course of the last two years. But, right now I’m feeling good, I’m taking steps to keep my mental health in check, & I’m finally starting to feel comfortable opening up & sharing my story.
When I was depressed, I was still high functioning. I would go to class & practice like any ‘normal’ student but as soon as I was done, I would run off to some secluded place & just cry. I isolated myself & avoided my friends because I was afraid that if I hung out w them, they’d realize something was wrong w me. I didn’t know how to explain what I was feeling to other people because I didn’t even understand what I was feeling. I realized it was easier to pretend I was okay than to have to explain to people why I wasn’t acting like myself. So, I kept going about my business trying my hardest to just pass for a ‘normal’ human. And it worked, for a while.
Initially, I didn’t ask for help. I tried so hard to maintain my ‘perfect’ image. I struggled on my own for a while. I was fortunate enough to have that coach that noticed I was struggling & reached out to me. She helped make arrangements for me to meet w that first therapist.
The 2nd time depression came around, I was a little bit more prepared. I reached out to our school’s counseling center to set up an appointment as soon as I noticed myself starting to slip. I knew that despite what I was feeling I had so many good things going on in my life & I didn’t want depression to get in the way of them. I reached out for help because I had learned from experience that I couldn’t do it alone.
Even now, I still struggle w asking for help. I always feel like I’m a burden to others when I ask for help. But I have been trying to do a better job of vocalizing my needs. To anyone that struggles with asking for help – there are 7 billion people on this earth. If we were meant to go it alone, there wouldn’t be 7 billion people around us.
For me, a combination of therapy & medication has helped me. Initially I was against taking meds. This was due to my own ignorance & the fact that society made me believe that if I took meds it was admitting that there was something seriously wrong w me. I hated the idea that I had to take meds everyday to help me function like a ‘normal’ person. But, I gave meds a chance & they worked incredibly well for me. I have also started journaling. I don’t like sharing things w other people, but being able to write things down & sort out my thoughts has really helped me.
I have never publicly told my story. At first I didn’t tell anyone about my struggles out of fear of judgement. But, over time, I have slowly opened up & started to tell some of my close friends & family members. Everyone that I have told has been super supportive.
Despite the fact that I have wonderful teammates, I have never felt comfortable sharing my story with them. In the world of college sports, there’s so much value placed on mental toughness. Everybody wants to appear tough, & admitting that you’re struggling goes against everything that you’re taught in sports. I hope that as I become more comfortable w sharing my #SameHere🤙 story I’ll be able to open up to my teammates & help start conversations about mental health & its relationship to sports.”