Mackenzie Fitzpatrick: Highlights & Lowlights

I think after posting my semester highlights, I realized how fake I can be on social media. While it’s true, this past semester was the best semester yet, it was also pretty dark too. While I have been open about some of my mental health struggles and my advocacy for ending the stigma around mental health in college athletics, I have never gone into the details of my own experience because I did not feel ready to be so open about something so personal for strangers to read. I kept saying I was going to wait to share until I was “all better” –it’s been a year since my attempt, or a year since I asked for help. In reality, healing is not linear. I don’t think there ever will be a time in my life that I feel 100% okay. But with time, I feel as though I am in a place and position in my life where I do feel I can share my story.

TW: mentions of suicide

Last summer, I was at my lowest point mentally. After not playing or traveling all season, I felt isolated and not connected with myself or anyone around me, especially my teammates. 

I woke up every day not wanting to do it anymore. I wasn’t accepting of my health, and I felt alone and isolated. I wasn’t eating and lost 40 pounds. It took all of my energy going to workout and practice during the day. When I got home, I just cried. When I did eat, I couldn’t keep it down. I lay awake at night dreading the sun coming up. I truly didn’t see the light anymore.

I thought this was the worst my mental health could possibly be. There were only a couple of people who knew of my struggles, but my family and coaches were not aware. 

After finally asking for help, things did begin to get better. I started seeing my therapist weekly, sometimes twice a week. I began medication for my depression and insomnia. I was working with our nutritionist (Liz, the GOAT) to find foods (and juice) that I could easily keep down and give me some energy. I felt really stable going into the fall. 

I’m going to be honest, I don’t really know why or when everything started to spiral. This can be really frustrating for me, and it is really hard to explain to other people too. There was no significant event or moment that did it for me. It was just time. I thought that I should be really happy. I found a great group of friends, I loved my housing situation with my roommates, I was finally cleared and was able to play softball, I was doing great in school. So with everything going so perfectly, why did I feel so empty and numb on the inside?

Every day it felt like there was a weight on my chest. Like I was just constantly treading water. Like I was running a full sprint on a treadmill and I wasn’t allowed to turn the speed down.

I did reach a breaking point, in October. Many of my closest friends and family don’t know this. I took a bunch of pills and instantly regretted it. I couldn’t stop crying and was trying to make myself throw up whatever I took.

I coincidentally had a doctor’s appointment that night, and my doctor (who I am extremely grateful for) knew what was going on and truly saved me. Whatever I took wasn’t enough, and she didn’t let me leave until I talked to the on-call therapist and knew I was safe.

My coach was there for me that night too. I’ll never forget how scared I felt but she gave me the best hug and was there for me more than I could have ever asked for. Coach V, I am forever grateful for you. 

I also want to thank my mom for dropping everything to be there for me when I needed it most. 

Many see me as a happy person, and if you see my social media, you wouldn’t suspect a thing. But it was all so fake. It’s not anyone’s fault, but it just further proves that we need to be kinder to one another. We are all battling something whether big or small, and being kind is all someone may need to see that light again. I sit here writing this in my empty apartment, feeling extremely alone and vulnerable, but grateful for the support system that I have, and knowing I’m going to be okay. I have the tools and the support system to know that I can survive the night alone, but I can’t say I always felt that way. I am so proud of myself and how much I have grown. 

So while this semester was dark, it still was the best semester yet. These past few months, I have discovered myself in terms of who I truly am, what I value, and the people that genuinely care about me and my well-being. 

While I want to say the cliche “you are not alone,” I don’t want anyone out there reading this to feel the way I did. I remember typing in some of my feelings into Google being like, wait, I’m depressed? Wait, not everyone cries themselves to sleep every night? Not everyone thinks about crashing their car? Not everyone is frantically trying to make their eyes look normal again before going into the weightroom?

I don’t want anyone to feel like I did when I felt as though I had to reach my breaking point in order to receive the help you deserve. Mental health is real, no matter how impacting it is on one’s livelihood. 

If you are someone struggling to see the light like I was, first of all, I am so proud of you for still being here today. Second, just make it to tomorrow. Because tomorrow, tomorrow just may give you your reason and purpose to continue on. You don’t know all of the amazing things that are in store for you and all of the people you haven’t met that are going to love you so much. Don’t let your mental illness distort your reality. Don’t let it not allow you to live your beautiful life. 

My dream one day is to create my own non-profit for collegiate athletes and their mental health, but it is a dream. For now, there are great organizations such as Mental Health America and so many more who are doing incredible things that you can donate to. But simply being kind to others and creating an inclusive environment wherever you are is the most amazing contribution you can make to this world. 

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