Most often in sports, the overwhelming majority of people think that if your body is “Healthy” then your good and ready to go. That’s far from the most important thing. The thing I’m saying goes for anything in life but, since this is a College Basketball website, I’m going to be tying it together but since you’re reading this, I will also be giving my experiences with Mental Health. This upcoming week is “National Suicide Prevention Week” and that week means a lot to me. First, I’ll be detailing my experiences with Mental Health Issues and, then I’ll get to sports figures who have publically dealt with it. The reason I’m explaining what I’ve dealt with isn’t for pity or anything of that nature I don’t want anyone saying “Sorry for what I’ve dealt with.” The reason I’m doing this is for people to realize that they are never alone. I’ve been lucky, people have had it far worse than I have whether they have PTSD or other such illnesses, I luckily haven’t dealt with that but I do feel for every single person who has. I want to be a voice for those who are scared or embarrassed to talk about their problems, because I know I was for a long-time. If I can help even one person with this, I feel like I’ve done what I wanted to accomplish in this piece.
The athletes you watch, musicians you listen to, actors/actresses you watch, Male/Female Models you see may have these issues. Also, a vast majority don’t want to talk about these issues, and I get why they don’t. I just think for me as a smaller writer I’m going to be vocal on what’s important to me and this is one of those things, my twitter DM’s are always open to talk about these issues, I’ll never judge everyone has their own story and I want to finally come out and share mine. #NationalSuicidePreventionWeek Suicide Hotline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255. You can call that at any time of the day, and please do if you’re having thoughts of self-harm. Around 800,000 people in the world each year take their own lives. We as a society need to change the stigma about Mental Health Issues, no reason someone should feel helpless to the point where they no longer want to live.
My Story: For about as long as I can remember, I always felt have dealt with Mental Health Issues, and it ebbs and flows. What I’ve dealt with has never been something that I detail to many people. For a long-time, I felt like I was the only one dealing with issues because I never saw people I knew/public figures talk about it. I was “Medically Diagnosed” in 2018 with Anxiety, OCD, and Depression. Even though that’s when it was confirmed, I first started experiencing those issues without being able to name the problems when I was about 9 or 10 years old. I started seeing a therapist around that time frame. My biggest issue of the three has been anxiety from about 12-15 years of age even more so on school days. I would only get about 2-5 hours of sleep due to my mind running for so long with constant fear running through my head. My biggest fear was something no child should worry about, but I was worried about dying constantly and it overtook my life. I would have multiple panic attacks a day, making being at school unbearable. I would sometimes during the day at school, where I would sit in the restroom for 10-20 minutes and it would be nearly impossible for me to focus once I came back. At the schools, I attended they never had the resources needed to discuss such issues. With my Depression much of it comes and goes, some days I don’t feel it at all, some I do all day. I’m very lucky because some have it to a crippling point and mine has never been that.
My OCD for the most part is settled down, but OCD isn’t the typical “Oh you just want to keep things clean” or need to re-arrange something. OCD plays a constant game in your head, every decision you make before you do it no matter what it’ll try to make you second guess. Often in my years of getting older, I would have different “Ticks” which were OCD related, all random but if I didn’t do them my head would tell me something terrible would happen to my family or myself. While it may sound crazy that’s how it is. Some examples of the ticks I had to do even in school, and I got looks from kids sometimes and ask what I’m doing and I always tried to cover it up and think of an excuse because I didn’t want to be looked at differently. One that was pretty prevalent throughout my younger years would be pushing in chairs a certain way until it’s completely in the right direction in my eyes, then one would be touching every door I close and rub it three times. It’s like a ritual in a sense things you feel like you have to do but look weird, I was embarrassed to do all these different things.
In 8th Grade, I started to become an indoor person due to depression. I quit playing sports, stopped doing school work, and gained a bunch of weight throughout the span of three years. I weighed just over 200 pounds at my most, and I would bury my feelings in food going into 2019 I decided to try and lose weight. In the last year, I’ve lost at one point up to 50 pounds and now I’ve lost about 40 or so from where I had started to lose weight. For the first time in my life, I feel comfortable in my body and confident in myself, losing weight was the best thing I ever did for my mental health it made a drastic up-turn from my lowest point. I usually point to weight loss as the main culprit for that. 450 Million People in the world deal with Mental Health issues, yet you still feel so few actually talk about it odds are someone you’re friends with is dealing with problems but don’t know how to talk about it. That’s due to there being a stigma around Mental Health way too many people don’t feel like they can talk to someone and they’ll understand. And if you’re the one with Mental Health issues reading this, you aren’t and will never be alone, there is always someone to talk with even if there’s not a good support system within your friends or family, there’s the suicide hotline. That’s why keeping that number at all times is important that’s someone their 24/7.
At one point in late 2017, I moved states my anxiety was at it’s worst point prior to moving, I needed a change of scenery. My Anxiety and OCD were so bad I rarely left my own house most times I would sit in my room and either play video games or sleep and do nothing, then come night time I couldn’t sleep, I could only truly sleep during the day. I was having many panic attacks per day, anywhere between 2-5, I couldn’t breathe and I would tell my family often “I think I’m having heart problems” because it felt virtually impossible to breathe, I would pace around my house and try to relieve some of the energy and make myself tired so my mind would stop racing for any period of time because it seemed like an engine that would never stop rolling. Another thing Kevin Love said was how “Masculinity” is seen as a reason some people wouldn’t talk about their issues. That’s 100% true, I’m not soft, I’m not less of a man than any person reading this, I think even more so if you have the guts to come out with your experience and try to help people, you’re a great person in my book.
In Sports: In recent years we’ve seen athletes speak out for things they believe in more than ever before. They have such strong voices, and kids look up to the players they watch on their screens. Whether it’s been racial injustice or serious things of that nature, we’ve also seen a mix of players speaking about Mental Health. Two notable players are Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers and DeMar Derozan of the San Antonio Spurs. Love spoke to ESPN back in 2018 about dealing with Mental Health issues. Love said something that resonated with me, “Success doesn’t mean you’re immune to depression.” Year after year, you see famous people commit suicide in all different kinds of industries, from Junior Seau in Football, to Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, the lead singer of one of the top rock bands of the last two decades, to a famous fashion designer Kate Spade, to an all-time great actor Robin Williams. All of those four people took their own lives, and often people ask the question “How can people with that much fame and fortune commit suicide?” To me, that is something I feel like I know. People with depression to that level often don’t just decide to end their life one random day. These people so, unfortunately, have had suicidal thoughts for long periods, and if they look happy when you see them on TV or during a performance, it could be that due to the ebbs and flows of depression. They are having a good day or they’re trying to make it look like nothing is wrong. 31% of American Adults experience Anxiety at some-time in their life, that means if you work in an office with 50 people around 15 will have dealt with anxiety. You may not know who odds are, it’ll be that number if not more. Nobody is immune to Mental Health Issues. Rather than masking your issues with substances such as Drugs and Alcohol, which inside my family has been in issue mostly with drinking. You see so many people go into rehab with addiction issues, much of that stems from life experiences, mostly from Mental Health. If you fall in that category reading this, just know everything is going to be fine. While the addiction may be deliberating you still have time to make it out on the right side. There are people that need you in their life and can’t lose you and that’s important to remember.
One of the most important Mental Health-related things with Athletes in the piece Matt Norlander of CBS Sports did when he spoke to one of the top players in College Basketball the past few seasons, Vermont’s Anthony Lamb. I highly encourage everyone to read that, I’ll give the gist of what happens though, Lamb while in Washington DC in 2018 with his team for a mid-season tournament, he went on a walk and was feeling suicidal, already knowing he was depressed though it was worse than ever. He looked over a bridge into the river and seriously thought about ending his life. That’s a player who was one of the top players in the sport and now a graduate from Vermont, he’ll be going pro in the NBA, G-League, and if not he will play professionally overseas. Another thing that shows no matter where you are in the world or are striving to be that vicious disease will try to steal that from you.
For my final words here, I want to convey the message I’ve been throwing out there. You are not alone and never will be this disease is something many people deal with daily.