Mental Health is a hot topic these days. Personally, I thought the term was stupid. Until I needed to come to terms with my own.
I was always the fat kid. It was fine for awhile though. In elementary school, you don’t really realize it. Or at least it doesn’t matter too much. I didn’t really become conscious of it till middle school. That’s when I realized elastic waistbands on my jeans weren’t cool and girls weren’t into the fat kid with acne and glasses. Still I dealt with it. School was easy for me so I got by and yeah I had a few fights but nothing major. Mostly though, I always had one outlet that I could poor myself into and that was sports and particularly football. I was good. Football was something where being big helped and I didn’t need to say or talk to people much. I loved it. I spent high school not getting drunk or going to parties but getting up at 6 AM on a Saturday in the off-season to get a workout in. Football was my form of an escape that I didn’t realize I was using.
All I wanted to do was play professional football but at a certain point I realized 6 foot nothing offensive lineman don’t make the NFL. However, I could play in college. So I ended up at John Carroll and for the first year and half things were going ok. I was still fat and maybe a little less awkward but football was going well. Then the injuries hit. I always played through pain, hell in high school my forehead bled every day. Red droplets trickled down my face as I had my head wrapped like Rambo. I was a badass (I was not a badass) I thought, I can play through anything. However, sophomore year of college I needed knee surgery, junior year I pulled both hamstrings and twisted both ankles. Then finally, when I thought I had a shot at meaningful playing time I got a concussion and broken nose in spring practice prior to my senior year. I blacked out during an Econ test that spring. The only thing I remember is writing my name on it and turning it in. The rest is gone. No recollection of it. That’s scary. Not knowing where time went is a feeling you do not want to have.
But like most things, I didn’t talk about it. I pushed through and got ready for the next year. However, the first day of fall practice I needed knee surgery again. When I came back a few weeks later I couldn’t move like I use to. My strength and power were gone too. I sucked. Now my identity was gone. I checked out mentally. I let myself go, my grades suffered. But I kept this to myself. Emotions? Feelings? Struggles? No I don’t know talk about those things. I can push through. My biggest regret from that is checking out on my teammates and coaches. I am truly sorry for disappearing.
I didn’t realize it at the time but I was depressed. I went into a 8 month long depression. I stopped working out and let my body fat soar to dangerous levels. My anxiety didn’t help as I worried about getting a job. See, I never realized I was an anxious person but if you know me you know I bite my finger nails to the point they will bleed. The problem is I think through every scenario before doing something. Every negative possibility runs through my head. This was great in football because I knew what could go wrong before it happened so I knew how to avoid it when I played but in life it causes me to worry about everything. I would never have admitted to being anxious because I thought that was a weakness.
Life improved after graduation. I realized that day that my gown was tight and I needed to get back in the gym. This was the start of a 4 year process of ups and downs that led me to more then cut my body fat in half and lose over 80 lbs. Still, I didn’t know how to talk about my feelings as my confidence did grow. It’s not something I did, talk about feelings. I bottle that up. Like Adam Sandler in Anger Management this builds to the point where I explode. I unleash a yell and an episode that is unfair to everyone around me. But this has always how I have been. I didn’t think there was anything really wrong with it or that could be done. Again, feelings weren’t talked about in my mind. Get through it on your own. Which is now one of my biggest regrets in life. I dated a girl for almost 5 and a half years and never really told her what I was going through. She was there for me throughout my injuries and when I was my lowest. We had issues that I didn’t address with her and I bottled them up. But like my anger, these issues eventually became too much and it was too far gone down the road. The relationship ended because of me. I hurt the most important person in my life at the time because I couldn’t come to terms with my own thoughts and feelings. I fucked up a really good thing because my failure to communicate and admit I had problems. That was a mistake on my part. A mistake I have to live with.
But that brings us to what was the best decision of my life. To ask for help. I made the call one morning to a therapist and scheduled an appointment. I asked for someone to talk to and they listened. They helped me recognize things I knew but refused to acknowledge. It became ok for me to ask for help. And that’s why I am writing this. It’s ok to ask for help. I was the most anti-therapy person for quite some time. I never though it was for me. I thought it was for the weak and I prided myself on my mental strength. Yet, it was exactly what I needed. It wasn’t weak to ask for help. Asking for help and admitting you have issues is where true strength comes from. So don’t bottle it up, don’t tough it out. Instead, make that call because I sure as hell wish I had sooner. It’s a good life out there, we all just need someone to talk to about it sometimes when we hit those bumps in the road. I’m glad I asked for that assistance. I needed it. Just wish I knew that sooner.