Olivia Duarte: Playing In Silence

This summer, I submitted an article to The Hidden Opponent about falling back in love with lacrosse after my depression consumed me. I just returned back to sports without treatment or hard conversations. I felt better and thought I was “cured.”

Little did I know, this is a battle I am not done fighting.

You know what the posts or the quotes on Instagram or the textbooks don’t tell you?

Depression is ugly. It’s mean and it’s aggressive. It’s all-consuming. It’s a liar and it feeds on your deepest insecurities, your lowest moments, and your biggest mistakes.  It’s a puppet master and you are the puppet. It whispers lies into your ears and tells you you are worthless and alone. It tells you the world is better off without you.

Depression grips you so tightly that you find yourself begging for release.

Depression is putting on a smile and dressing up for a night out. Depression is crying on the floor of your bedroom until you can’t breathe. It’s struggling to get out of bed one day and running a marathon the next.  Depression is scary because it does not have a face. It keeps you guessing… keeps you wondering if you will finally beat it.

Depression is dark enough for people in this world. But for athletes, it adds another layer of darkness, making it even harder to see the light ahead.

“Hey coach, I’m so depressed that I can’t get out of bed and I can’t practice today”

“Hey coach, I broke my foot so I can’t practice today”

Which one do you think the coach would respond with “rest up and heal up quickly.”

That’s the problem. We can write articles and spark conversations but at the end of the day, without having a coach or teammates that listen… it won’t matter.

I remember telling my previous coach that I was depressed and she told me I was being dramatic. She told me there is a dark cloud following me and she hoped I have sunnier days ahead.

Luckily for me, this year I was blessed with coaches who see me as a human being before they see me as an athlete. Two coaches who gave me time and space to heal and return to the sport I love so much. Coaches willing to sit down and discuss mental health with as much passion and understanding as they discuss lacrosse. Teammates who sent me texts every day until I came back to school. Teammates who welcomed me back with open arms when I walked into the locker room for the first time in two weeks.

But what about the people who don’t have that support? The athletes that can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel? The ones who, when it is far too late, everyone says, “I loved them and I had no idea they were struggling.”

Aren’t you tired of the Instagram posts about a “tragic loss” that “no one saw coming?” Well, I am beyond tired. My heart aches for the athletes who have lost their lives to this horrible, invisible enemy.

It’s time to stop telling athletes they aren’t alone. It’s time we start showing one another that we are here and we are not going anywhere. It is time to stop playing in silence.

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