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How My Volleyball Coach Used My Depression and Anxiety Against Me

Being a teenager in high school, I wanted to try athletics. I had done volleyball since I was a third grader. My freshman year was great. The head coach now was then the assistant coach. She was my main coach. I felt like I had a great bond with her. I trusted her. She was an inspiration to me, a role model.

That same winter, during basketball season, was when I first started showing my symptoms of depression. I had always had anxiety, but I never knew what depression was. There would be times when I was sad, but it was never like this. During basketball season, I worked hard and tried my hardest. I never played. I also lost my best friend since kindergarten due to the “sport’s drama.” That was when I got bad. January 2015 was one of the worst lows I had experienced at that point. I wanted to sleep all of the time. It eventually got so bad, I began to self-harm. No, I didn’t tell anyone, nor did anyone know.

I have never been much of a runner. My volleyball coaches urged me to do track because it would “make me into a better athlete.” I didn’t do it, knowing I wouldn’t be competitive and I would have been absolutely miserable. I began to go to weights in the morning, three times a week, for conditioning over the spring season, since I had chosen not to do track. I had been having stomach pains and neck aches for a while, at that point. My parents had taken me to the doctor. In April 2015, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). I reached out to my coach, who I found out was moving up to the head coach position. I trusted her and she held that trust.

Everything went well that next fall. I started varsity and my mood was positive. That all ended when I injured my knee. I couldn’t play, I could barely walk. The doctors didn’t know what had happened. The MRI came back with no sign of any tearing in my knee and the x-rays also came back clear. I was devastated I couldn’t play the game I loved most.

That spring, I didn’t do track again due to the pain of my knee. I didn’t go in for conditioning either that spring or summer. On July 21, 2016, I had my knee scoped. Everything went well. The same coach stopped by at the hospital to check on me. I felt like I was actually important to someone and I might’ve been worth her time. I was excited for volleyball season because I wanted to get back on the court more than anything. That fall came around, and my depression and anxiety was really bad. I had never been in a darker place. I talked to my coach about it, remembering how understanding she was when I had first told her about it. She “cried.” I still don’t know if it was for show, or what it was.

That fall, I barely played. I played junior varsity, and I suited up for varsity, but I got in three times over the entire season. I was the only varsity player who didn’t get a letter. I was devastated. I had gone from my freshman year to making varsity and playing in the last game of the season, to starting varsity up until I hurt my knee my sophomore year, to this. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for her, for me, for anyone. When I talked to her about it, she told me she didn’t want to put me in for risk of me having a mental breakdown or a panic attack on the court.

I was in complete shock. Did she really just say that to me? I was so upset. Sitting there, I realized she thought I was not strong enough to play. That killed me. I had been going to therapy and working hard on having a positive attitude in practice. I was five months clean from self-harm and I had just been told one of the reasons I wasn’t playing was due to my depression and anxiety. I sat there in utter disbelief. My world crashed down. The person I looked up to the most just completely ruined the way I looked at her. I cried that night and I self-harmed for the first time in five months. I sobbed until I couldn’t anymore. I think I literally ran out of tears.

Now, I am reaching the end of my junior year. I am not going out on the court next year because my old coach destroyed my love for the game. I thought she would have tried to understand what I was going through, not use it against me. My heart still aches. I love the game more than anything and when I am out on the court, I don’t think about every little thing wrong in my life. I laugh alongside my friends and teammates whom I used to call my family.

Coach, you destroyed me. You broke me and killed me on the inside. You will never read this and that is fine… but you destroyed my passion and love for the game. I wanted to have a moment with my parents like I’d seen all of the past seniors have, but now I will never get that because you killed me. I am dead to you now, and that is alright. I just have to keep pushing through because, in five years, you won’t matter to me any longer.

Getty Images photo via Moore Media