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8 Things I Hide as a Collegiate Athlete With Mental Illness

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Anyone who lives with mental illness may know that sometimes there are things you feel you have to hide and keep to yourself. Not because you don’t want help, but because you don’t want others to have to deal with what you deal with every day of your life.

I, for one, have become very good at hiding many things when it comes to any of my mental illnesses, and as a collegiate athlete, I’ve found this has become even more prominent. As a collegiate athlete, you are in front of crowds, you have kids who want to be like you when they are older, you have to make sure your scholarships and grades stay where they need to be, and on top of that, you have your personal life. Here is a list of 10 things I hide about my mental disorders as a collegiate athlete.

1. Feelings of pain and hopelessness are hidden behind a smile.

As I’m sure many people can relate to, a facade can be put on to look OK on the outside when in reality you are nothing close to being OK.

2. The struggle of getting up to get to school and practice and being expected to still perform at your best.

If you live with depression, you likely know the struggle of just getting out of bed on an especially bad day, and when those days come and I have school and practice, I know performing at my best just isn’t a thing.

3. The social anxiety of being expected to interact and represent the team well.

As a collegiate athlete, you are seen as a leader. You are many times the face of a sport or even the school. In those moments, people like me with social anxiety can have great difficulty. After keeping myself composed, the minute I get home I just break down.

4. Never feeling like you are good enough or doing your best.

With any sport, players are always trying to become better so they can beat their opponents. At a college level, that couldn’t be more true. As with any athlete, there come times when you know you could’ve done better or gave it more. But with my depression, I struggle with self-worth on a daily basis, and combining that with competitive sports I’ve found can drop one easily back into a depressive episode.

5. Wanting to reach out for help, but feeling scared or not worthy of being helped.

Struggling with my disorders, I have oftentimes wanted nothing more than to reach out and ask for the help and support of others, but most times I won’t. In those moments, it’s because I don’t feel worthy of your help, but also I’m scared that if I opened up I would be seen as “weak” and not be treated as myself.

6. Hiding who I really am for the sake of an image.

Because college athletes are often looked at as leaders, strong, the “cream of the crop,” we can be stigmatized with this almost unbeatable image or as the “Spartans” of the school. Because of this stigma, I oftentimes hide who I really am and instead try to be what the world expects me to be.

7. The overwhelming emotions.

Emotions can be elevated many times throughout a sports year. If you win or lose, make a vital play, miss something that caused a game changer — there are so many emotions involved in sports. And when emotions are elevated because of a disorder, I’ve found that’s when problems can start to arise, and the emotions can interfere with how we play our sport.

8. The bravery.

Anyone with any mental disorder, especially the demon known as depression, knows how hard it can be. One of my favorite quotes is “You wake up every morning to fight the same demons that left you so tired and broken the day before, and that, my love, is bravery.” I believe this word describes living with any mental illness. Many people may not see the strength these individuals have and the bravery it can take to continue every day.

As a collegiate athlete, I go through many of the same things people all over the world go through every day. In the future, I hope this stigma around college athletes, or any athlete for that matter, can be put down, and that steps can be made towards helping them — no matter who they are, what they do, or where they are going — to be supported in the battle against the demons inside their heads, and that no mask or facade will need to be put on by anyone.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Originally published: January 11, 2017
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