I grew up with a suffer in silence mentality; it was always just easier to work hard, keep my head down, and keep others happy. I loved soccer so much that anytime I went through something hard, I was able to fully immerse myself in the game. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college soccer that this lifestyle started to cause some problems.
TW: mentions of suicide
My roommate and teammate freshman year was a bully, to say the least. Hurtful lies were spread, teammates were turned against one another, and adults in power were manipulated for her cause. I started to hear lies about myself from people I had just met, friends, and even coaches. Halfway through my first semester, I fell into a deep depression and was having panic attacks daily. I could barely eat, started skipping class, and getting out of bed seemed like an impossible task.
Since my trigger was a teammate, practices, lifts, or any team activity became my worst nightmare. I was losing touch with reality, having severe chest pain, and started to have suicidal ideations. I felt like there was no way out, I was stuck in this reality and was suffocating. I hit my breaking point and finally confided in my best friend and teammate who helped me find a therapist.
I started to learn new coping tools, how to be okay around my triggers, and how to ask for help when I needed it. For the next year, I was living my life between therapy appointments. I had developed enough tools to be okay, but I often felt numb. I would show up to practice and just do my job. I had completely lost my drive to be the best. My love of the game was gone.
At the end of my sophomore year, I made the decision to transfer schools. Even though the specific girl was no longer on the team, I had spent the entirety of my sophomore year telling myself that since she was gone, I needed to be happy and that I could not run from my problems. The reality was that even though I was no longer around her at training or in the locker room, healing from trauma looks different for everyone.
Transferring to Willamette University was the best decision I have ever made. I had become so desensitized to my toxic team environment that I thought every team would be like that. During preseason at Willamette, I almost immediately fell in love with soccer again. Over the next few months, I had the best season of my life. I was surrounded by teammates who wanted me to be the best version of myself on and off the field.
As athletes, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the best. Participation in college athletics should be fun and enriching. We need to stand up for one another by spreading kindness & compassion. It’s okay to not be okay <3