My Mental Health Through Quarantine: An Athlete’s Perspective

By Hailey Bianco, Intern

I’ve been reflecting on the COVID-19 quarantine period and all I can think is that this has been such a weird time in our lives. As I’m sure many can relate, these past three months have felt like a year. At first, I was disappointed that my spring season was canceled, but at the same time, I was relieved that I didn’t have to take my final macroeconomics exams. Most of all, I was uncomfortable being forced back to my hometown when I was just beginning to thrive at college. I felt afraid of being stuck at home –the same environment where my mental health was once at its worst. I was worried I’d encounter another relapse in my depression. While in quarantine, I experienced an increase in my depressive episodes. At one point, I was in my room crying every night and didn’t have motivation to leave my bed. 

Unfortunately, I was also coping with the fear of a potential knee surgery. I was unable to get a definite answer on my prognosis because shelter-in-place orders kept me from being able to meet with the surgeon. I struggled to find the motivation to keep up with my training when I didn’t know what I was training for, as I didn’t know if I’d be able to play in the fall. All of this uncertainty had me on edge. I felt hopeless.

I found a lot of comfort in art during this time. I suddenly felt a surge of artistic inspiration, to the point where I did not want to do anything else. I spent days creating and it gave me peace of mind. This burst of creativity helped me reflect back to when my mental health was at an all-time low. I remembered how art used to be my only coping mechanism. Even though I felt myself slacking off on my physical training, it felt really great to take a break from being an athlete for a while. With athletics temporarily out of my life, I was able to find a deeper understanding of my identity. But at the end of the day, I realized I missed being an athlete and training with my team every day.

I started reaching out to friends more often, which helped me feel connected to the world again. As some time passed and shelter-in-place orders started to ease, I was able to reconnect with my best friends from high school. I found a lot of joy in being able to enjoy my teen years for once. I wasn’t stressed about my next assignment or exhausted from another practice. This freedom helped lift my spirits once I figured out how to cope with the other uncertainties. I thrive with a structured lifestyle, so this uncertainty was a learning curve, but a necessary one to help me grow.

Finally, at the end of May, I was able to meet with the knee surgeon. He told me that I didn’t need the surgery and that I’d be able to play in the fall. I was so excited about the news that I decided to go for a run. One thing you should know about me is that I despise running. However, you could call it a victory lap. I ran every day for the next week and then my state re-opened public gyms. Suddenly, I had something to train for and became more motivated than ever before. I now feel so happy to be able to lift weights and complete a full work out knowing that the season is just around the corner. That motivation and determination reminded me how much I miss my sport and the competitive drive that it has instilled in me. So, while COVID-19 has been one of the weirdest times, I also like to think that it has brought me new joys and a deeper sense of self.