How the Hardest Challenge of My Life Led Me to Create a Business
A personal essay about my toughest tackle
As an athlete who has struggled with mental illness for years, I empathize with those who are going through something similar.
Mental illness has been the most challenging setback in my life. I have been diagnosed with various mental health disorders over what has nearly been ten years, including depression, various anxiety disorders, and PTSD.
Prior to the start of high school, I began struggling with many aspects of my life that came naturally to me before, such as doing well in school, being a top athlete, and having a strong social network. I associated my lack of success with being incompetent as an individual, instead of an underlying mental illness.
After I eventually realized that my mental health was the root cause of this all, I decided not to speak up. The stigma associated with mental health is real. As a young, highly competitive athlete, I did not want to be perceived as weak. I went on without talking about what I was going through for a year and a half. I insisted on pretending that I was okay.
But I was scared to speak up.
Over time my mind became so unhealthy that I could no longer function adequately. I stopped going to school. I ended up reaching a point where I stayed in my room all day, lying on my bed. I would close my eyes and wish everything I was thinking and feeling would go away.
I am fortunate enough to have an unbelievably supportive family who tried to provide me with the resources I needed. However, for a while, I refused. I let my pride and ignorance get the best of me. I would tell myself that if I went to a therapy session or worked with a Psychiatrist, I would never forgive myself; I thought that it would mean I was accepting that I was not only weak but “crazy.”
I ended up transferring to a high school in Florida known for having one of the best high school sports programs in the country. I went there hoping to direct my negative energy towards something more positive, something I was passionate about. I managed my symptoms for a whole semester; however, after that, my underlying mental health struggles got the best of me again.
I was going through something similar, just in a new environment. I did finally agree to speak with a Psychiatrist, but I still did not want to face what I was going through. I did not want to give in and accept that I was not okay. I was put on medications, which did not seem to help. The dosage increased over time until I was on such a high dosage that I began feeling numb.
During my Junior year, I started getting noticed by some college football programs. I started receiving recruiting mail and having conversations with college coaches via phone calls and Twitter. Focusing on football was a way for me to put everything else on hold. However, I knew that this was only another short term solution. All areas of my life seemed dependent on my on-field performance, which was not healthy.
Before my senior year, I transferred once again, to a high school in New Jersey. That year I met some of my best friends and ended up committing to play football at Kenyon College. However, when I got to college, my life took a complete one-eighty. Life became so much more demanding and certain events led me to feel like I was back to square one.
After my first year at Kenyon, I finally took the initiative to take care of my mind.
I made my mental health a priority, and it paid off in the long run.
If there were one thing I would have done differently in the past, it would be to speak up and seek help sooner rather than later. I believe that if I did so, I could have prevented a tremendous amount of collateral damage from occurring that negatively impacted my life. However, I understand that many athletes and people alike may not be open to doing this, especially at first. Therefore, I encourage others who are facing mental health struggles to be more proactive and to take care of their minds on a regular basis, especially during this time.
Thank you for reading!
Originally published at http://hitstick.blog on June 29, 2020.