When it ends

I’ve been putting off this post for too long. I know this, you know this. So, lets just bite the bullet shall we?

Back in August, I had just recovered from my second bad concussion and I was more than ready to get back on the court. I hadn’t been to a real practice for a little over two weeks and we were playing a tournament up in Portland. I played a set in our game against Alabama State and I was rusty, but it felt amazing to be playing. In our last game for the weekend we were playing University of Portland and it was a big game. I went in late in the first set and was finally starting to feel like my normal self.

Then, the third set came. I was playing well, really well. I felt good, and looking around at my team I couldn’t wait to keep playing like this for the rest of my senior season. I went up for a tight hit and bam. I remember an immediate flash of pain, like something had suddenly snapped, and when I found myself on the ground I was clutching my knee, too scared to look. All I remember after that is my athletic trainer talking to me and being carried off the court by my coaches. Hidden behind the bleachers, my athletic trainer evaluated me and immediately told me I was going to have to get an x-ray. Let me just say, I used to not be a big crier, but in that moment I was in hysterics. I’d never been in that amount of pain, and clearly I had no idea how to handle it. On my way to the hospital with my parents, I knew it was bad. In my head all I could think of was how I was going to tell the team this was it. What a morbid thought to have, but that’s me, always preparing for the worst. The x-ray didn’t show anything, and so a few days later, as my team was in Texas for another pre-season tournament, I got an MRI and found out that I had completely torn my ACL. More like obliterated it. When my doctor walked into the room the first thing he said was that my MRI results were “amazing” and he’s never seen anything like it. And no, it wasn’t a good amazing.

But I already knew. I knew the night it happened, I knew when I was trying to stretch it two days after and I felt a disgusting snapping feeling again, I knew when I walked into the doctor’s office and one of the athletic trainers was waiting for me. I just knew.

I don’t think I realized before this how difficult it is to be positive to other people when you know something terrible has happened. I got a flurry of texts, and calls right after I got injured and I kept responding with the same thing, “Thank you for your thoughts! I’ll be back soon.” But I didn’t believe the words as I was saying them.

After I got my results back it was like everything hit at the same time. I was starting school and a few weeks into the term I had surgery. I was dating a guy I really liked at the time, and we ended up breaking up right around the time of my surgery (I’d like to say the injury had nothing to do with it, but it did). I had to take an incomplete for one of my classes because I couldn’t get around, and I had lost interest in school completely. This was of course, also, the time I was going to be applying to grad schools. My senior season of volleyball was ruined, and I was falling into a depression. Feelings that I hadn’t felt for months, maybe even years, came back. One night, I had so much anxiety about my leg and the future, I stayed up and cried silently for hours, struggling to breath. I wanted to give up. Luckily, I texted my athletic trainer in the midst of tears that I needed to see someone. Which I did a few days later (shoutout to my therapist for being a godsend the last few months).

I thought I was ready to be done with volleyball, but those few months after surgery I wasn’t certain. Everything felt so unfair. Why did this happen after working my ass off for the last year preparing for this season? Why now? I watched the video of the play close to a hundred times, and I couldn’t understand why that time created such a vastly different outcome than all the times prior. I remember hobbling into practice the day before I got my MRI results back, and I had to hobble out within the first three minutes because I could feel the tears start to well up. I sat outside the gym, in a little corner, and cried. When one of my coaches came outside she asked me what was the matter, and all I could manage to say was “I’m not ready for it to be over,” because I knew this was it.

If you aren’t an athlete, it’s hard to explain how much of your identity is strung to your sport. Before this point, my sole focus had been finishing the season, and then figuring out what I’m going to do with my life. Thanks to my torn ACL, that process sped up rather quickly. Every day felt more overwhelming than the next, until one day it got easier. It wasn’t something I noticed at first, but gradually, my leg stopped throbbing constantly. I could fall asleep without crying because of the pain. It’s like I woke up one day, and noticed I was starting to feel better. It was slow, but it was getting there.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, knowing you’ll never step foot on the court with some of your best friends again. Knowing even if you do play again, it won’t be the same, but I think I’m finally starting to realize it’s okay for everything to be different. Yes, I still have more eligibility, but I don’t want to use it. I want to leave Oregon State without a bitter taste in my mouth, and I know that if I went to play somewhere else, it wouldn’t be the same. What I had at Oregon State, can’t be re-created anywhere else. I loved this team, even if we fought or disagreed, these women are my family, and I’m content knowing my volleyball career will have ended in Corvallis. Somewhere along the last six months I accepted the fact that I’m more than an athlete. Volleyball is a sport I play, but it’s not who I am. I have so much more to offer than simply what I can do on the court.

My life isn’t going to end after I graduate in June; it’s just going to begin.

This injury has taken away things, but its also given me more than I thought was possible. Its given me empathy, strength, the power to push through moments when I was ready to give up, and hope. If you ask any of my friends, they wouldn’t define me as “optimistic” per say, but seeing the progress I’ve made over the last few months gave me hope for the future, in every facet.

There were so many moments I wanted to give up, and thought I would never be the same person. You know what, I probably won’t be the same person I was before this, but that’s okay. I’m finally doing things I’ve always wanted to do, plus I got cleared to run on my own last week (with my trusty brace of course)!

I wish I could put into words how thankful I am to my parents, roommates (live-in nurses), teammates, coaches, friends, athletic trainers, counselors, professors, and everyone else who reached out to me over the last six months. Even in the moments I felt alone, I knew there were people around who loved and supported me, and that is such a powerful feeling. So thank you. Thank you to everyone who reached out to me, and made me believe that it would get better, because it has, and it still will.

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11:49 PM

Well hello there. It’s 11:49pm and I can’t sleep because I’m anxious about, just about everything. If you didn’t know, I recently tore my ACL and got surgery two weeks ago tomorrow. It’s been a struggle but up until yesterday every day has gotten better. Yeah, yesterday? Yesterday I felt like complete shit. My rehab hit a standstill and I’m still on crutches and in my big brace. I feel weak and miserable because I can’t get around on my own and have to depend on people to do everything for me. Plus, I’m in the middle of fall term getting ready to apply for MFA programs at the end of the year. We had a game earlier today (which we won) and I plastered on a big smile and sat on the bench cheering for my incredible team but on the inside? I wanted to be anywhere else. It kills me watching the team and wanting nothing more than to get on the court with them but knowing I can’t. Add all of that onto the fact I’ve barely been able to eat and have been pushing away the overwhelming urge to binge and purge, well it’s been a rough past few days. When the doctors and PT told me recovery was going to be hard, I thought they meant physically, I had no idea the mental toll it would take on me. This is the worst I’ve felt since arriving at Oregon State. In fact, I just texted my athletic trainer at 11pm telling her I needed to talk to someone because I can’t keep going feeling this way.

I’m writing this because I was almost too embarrassed to tell anyone this is how I’ve been feeling. I’m discouraged and afraid that it won’t get better, even though logically I know it will. I talk a lot about mental health and not being afraid to open up but I’d be lying if I said it’s easy to open up. I hate crying, I hate having people see me vulnerable but I’m trying to teach myself every day that it’s okay to not always have it together. It’s okay to ask for help when you’re struggling. I also wrote this because I don’t want people to only hear from me when everything’s great. This is the reality of dealing with a mental illness, there are days when I think it would be better if I wasn’t here, if I wasn’t going through the stress and pain of all of this. Does it get easier? Of course. Does it go away all together? No.

Before I started typing I took twenty minutes sitting in bed with my head facing down focusing on my breathing. Inhale, exhale. After a few minutes of that I told myself that it would get better even though I didn’t really believe it, but I know I have to keep saying it. There are so many things I haven’t done, and so many things I want to do. I can’t quit now because it’s hard, I have to keep pushing through, even on days like this. The reality of dealing with these things aren’t always pretty but they’re important to acknowledge. If anyone else is going through this, you’re not alone, you should be here, and you are incredibly important. It’s going to get better, it just takes time. Breath. We’ll get through it together.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:

1-800-273-8255

Stand Up

Every day when I check my social media accounts I prepare to read or see something heartbreaking. It’s a sad truth that these events we are seeing are not uncommon. This is our reality right now. The events that have gone on in Virginia with the protests, and then counter protests are horrific to say the least. I fear for people that are even remotely different, I truly do. I’m scared for my friends that have different skin colors, that speak different languages, that are part of the LGTBQ+ community. I am scared because we are at a point where people no longer care about hiding their prejudices, they no longer feel as though they have to get with the times. No longer is there a need for masks, hoods, or gowns. These people have no fear of being held accountable, because they aren’t being held accountable.

When I walk out my door I think about what I would do if someone were to approach me and saying something racist. If they were to push me, scream at me, or spit on me. I used to not be afraid of these things but here I am, in 2017, afraid of things that were apparent in the 1950’s. Have we not grown past that? Do people still believe there is a “superior race”?

Racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and everything that comes along with these things are not new. They may have been hidden for a while, but they are not new.

Growing up in a town where the majority of the people were white and decently conservative, I always had to be the bigger person. I had to walk away when a boy in middle school thought it would be funny to scream nigger down the hall at me. I had to keep my head down when my honors English class read “Black Boy” and “How to Kill a Mockingbird” to avoid the stares as my teacher would read aloud the word nigger. I had to stay quiet when someone said they didn’t find hanging nooses a problem. I had to accept the apology from one of my 14’s teammate’s who called me a nigger because I played over her. Can you imagine what it must be like for the people that had ancestors in a concentration camp and are now seeing hoards of people using the swastika like it’s nothing?

Why is it that people who are being oppressed or beaten down must always be the bigger person? Why is it my job to walk away, to be silent, to accept that apology?

So how would I react now if I was faced with someone threatening me? I used to think the best way to react was to give them nothing at all. That’s what parents always tell you as a way to handle bullies in school right? Give them no reaction and they’ll eventually go away right? However, we are not dealing with children. We are dealing with adults who are malicious, willfully ignorant, and dangerous. I don’t know what I would do if someone approached me with hate spilling from their mouth, but I surely will not be silent. I will speak up, not only for myself but for those around me.

To the people that haven’t faced anything like this before, you don’t get a good job for sticking up for those that are being attacked, because that is what you’re supposed to do. You will not get a congratulations sticker for being a decent human being. How sad is it that are standards for humans and their compassion is set so incredibly low? If you’re able to not pay attention to the horrible events going on then that is because you don’t think it could impact you, and that in itself is privilege. To be clear, if you don’t speak up for the lack of leadership within our government, if you don’t say how disappointed and disgusted you are in the way people are being treated, you are just as bad as them.

I feel as though I could write essays upon essays about this but really, the main point is that regardless of what you label yourself, I hope you find the courage to stand up for the people around you and the world you want to continue living in. I hope you don’t cower in fear because of disgusting human beings, I hope you hold people accountable for their actions, and I hope you find your voice and stand up for the people around you. It is not the job of those being hurt to stay silent and take it, it’s the job of every single person with a working brain to stand up for what’s right.

I have no idea what I’m doing, and that’s okay

Recently, a ton of people have been asking me how I’m going to support myself next year when I graduate. Well ladies and gents, let me just put it out there right now, I have absolutely no idea, but I will.

I’ve always made my intentions clear about wanting to move to the East coast right after graduation, maybe a few weeks of traveling around prior to the move, but what is a fact is that I’m leaving. I’ve told my friends, family members, I even tell guys when I go out on that first date that I’m leaving in less than a year, and no I will not change my mind, yes even if we start dating and you’re a really cool person, I’m leaving.

Growing up in a small town had a lot of benefits, but god, I need something new. What better than packing up and moving across the country for that something new? The plan is to apply to a few graduate programs along the East coast and if I get in to one of them then I’ll do that. If not I’ll be applying for jobs in public relations and publishing in New York and Boston (not opposed to London though). And well folks, that’s about it. I think people assume I have this big elaborate plan; already have a job waiting for me, apartment picked out with the first six months of rent paid, and a cool $10,000 worth of savings. Update, I definitely, one hundred percent, do not. I’m driven that’s for sure, but am I always on top of my shit? No. Of course not.

I’m terrified that I won’t find a job but I also believe in myself. I know that I’ll be valuable to whatever school or company that wants to bring me on board, and once I get there I’m going to work my ass off to do my job better than they could ever expect. I think it’s hilarious and if I’m being honest, I kind of love the fact that people around me think I have it all together but c’mon, that’s just not realistic. I’m about to look for jobs in cities I’ve never been to for more than a week and where I know close to no one. To say I’m nervous would be a vast understatement, but I am ready. I used to be afraid of failing and letting people down, and I’d be lying if I said those thoughts never crept into my mind still, but every day I get closer to the things I’ve worked so hard for. I’ll be dammed if I let fear discourage me from going after what I want. There are so many things I want to do, so many places I want to go and more than that, so many things I want to feel.

Moral of the story, you don’t always need a plan. As hard as it is for me to say that, (I’m an avid passion planner fanatic) it’s true. Sometimes you have to take chances and put yourself out there. I’m confident that I’ll figure something out, and if I don’t.. well I’ve heard being an Instagram model makes quite a bit of money, maybe I’ll test that out?

Why I Decided to Forgo my Redshirt Senior Season

15284959_1508043335878840_6984164994304216149_nFor those that aren’t into sports or college athletics, redshirting is where you omit one of your seasons. This can be for a number of reasons; injuries or simply because you want to have a year of training and get used to playing a college sport while handling all the other aspects of college life. I redshirted my freshmen year of college because my team had about 18 girls and there was no way I was going to be setting foot on the court. It was a hard decision but it was the right one. My freshmen year I got the opportunity to train with the the amazing upperclassmen and truly become a better student-athlete. But spending five years in college was not part of the game plan for me.

So, after a lot of thought I decided to graduate on time next spring and that this upcoming season will be my last. And you know what? I am so happy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my team, my school, and the community I’ve been lucky enough to go to college in but I’m ready to move on. I’ve given volleyball the past 14 years of my life and I want to do something else. It took me a long time to understand that there’s nothing wrong with that. This wasn’t something I decided on a whim either. I thought about it for months but I always felt like I owed something to my team, my coaches, and my family but then it clicked one day that none of them are living my life. I have to grow up and make decisions for myself because at the end of the day, I’m the one that’ll be living with my decisions. This is what I want and I don’t think I’ve ever been more sure of something in my entire life (21 years, I know not a long time but still). Moving on is OKAY. I hate the fact that people are afraid to go after what they want because they’re scared of letting someone else down. DO WHAT YOU’RE DREAMING ABOUT. You don’t need to burn bridges but you owe it to yourself to go after what you want in life. If that means you have to let some people down on the way, let people down! I guarantee you will never please everyone in your life, but you can make yourself happy by following your dreams. If your dream is to play professionally, do it. If it’s to travel for a year, do it. If you want to become a kick ass doctor or lawyer, do it. I’m not saying it’s going to be a walk in the park once you decide what you want to do but it’ll be a hell of a lot easier to work hard for something if you love what you’re working towards. I’m terrified of moving on and not having the safety net of time or volleyball on my side but I’m more terrified of being so passive in my life that I’m too scared to go after what I want.

I’m not saying this is the choice for everyone, but it was the choice for me. I don’t consider this quitting, this is me moving on – growing up and I couldn’t be more ready. See ya next year New York, you have no idea what’s coming 😉

Being a Student-Athlete and Living with Mental Illness

I know plenty of people have written about this topic but each post I read helped me feel a little more normal so I thought I’d jot down some thoughts and try to explain what makes it difficult to be a college athlete and struggle with mental illness. There is so much I could talk about and it’s hard to condense my feelings and thoughts into a short blog post but I’ve chosen to focus not so much on my specific struggles (if you want to talk about that feel free to message me and we can chat) but on how as student-athletes we can work on changing the way we view mental health.

Since I was in middle school I struggled with depression, self-harm and an eating disorder. Add that into a crippling desire to be the “perfect” student and it was a recipe for disaster. I never told anyone because I felt absolutely crazy. I felt like no one would believe me and even if they did I’m not a doctor, who am I to say I suffer with all these things? I felt invalidated and insecure in who I was and what I was struggling with. I had a great life and I’m not so consumed with myself to think other people don’t have much worse circumstances to overcome, but that’s the problem with mental illness, it eats away at all your logical thinking and makes you drown into your irrational thoughts and feelings.  In a way, going to college and getting away from all the memories of the pain I had gone through and afflicted on myself was the best thing I could have done. But it left the scars that were in this little town open, so whenever I come back for breaks the pain is still here, haunting me.

The reason why a lot of people don’t speak out is because no one wants to be that person. Hell, I know I don’t or at least I didn’t (I’m working on this new thing of not caring about what other people think). The first time I talked about everything I had gone through to a therapist at Oregon State was the first time I didn’t feel out of my mind. It was also the first time I didn’t feel like a coward. I saw a girl at our volleyball camp last summer who had scars all the way up her arms and I wanted to pull her aside and tell her it would all be okay but I didn’t. I had a perfect opportunity to be the person I needed when I was her age and I was a coward. I think that’s why I’m writing this now, I don’t want to be a coward anymore. Someone that’s too afraid of her own feelings to help others. Being a student-athlete is amazing. You have little kids that run up to you after games exclaiming that you’re their hero, professors always want to talk about your games, parents brag about you to their old friends and the more that happens the less you become a real person with real feelings and turn into an image. That image can be damaging because you represent your school and you don’t want to let the people who have supported you all these years down. I can only speak for myself but being a student-athlete doesn’t always give you the best reputation, people love you but people also love to find reasons to pick apart what you’re doing. To a lot of people, student-athletes are seen as spoiled, so god forbid student-athletes have something else to complain about.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my school and if anything I think playing a college sport has helped me handle my triggers and open up more but there’s also the fear of people around campus suddenly thinking they know everything about me because they know certain parts of my life. In the student -athlete community, everyone finds out everything. It doesn’t matter how but everyone will eventually find out very personal things about  you and that’s a little terrifying. I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to ask for help, in any case. I’m headstrong and I’ve never shown any of my friends how I am when I start to feel the depression weighing on me. The idea that people I see every day, lift with and have classes with will see this post kind of scares the shit out of me. But I’m trying to realize that the reason mental illness is still so taboo is because of people like me that are scared to talk about it, people who are cowards.

So here I am; not being a coward and completely & totally jumping out of my very comfortable shell and telling people it’s okay to not be okay, even if other people like parents, coaches or friends have other expectations of you. Ask for help, talk about your problems, don’t struggle in silence. I felt alone and I still do sometimes but something kind of funny and heartbreaking happened when I met with that therapist for the first time. I was filling out paperwork in the waiting room, trying to hide the form that asked me questions like “On a scale of 1-5 how much have you thought about hurting yourself within the last two weeks?” and as I looked around to see if anyone was looking at me there were three other student-athletes filling out the exact same form. You are not alone. Don’t wait until it gets worse to ask for help, reach out to someone that makes you feel safe. I am so sick of feeling alone and helpless. Mental illness is not something you should be ashamed of but breaking down that stigma starts with us, the student-athletes. We can change the culture and make it easier for our friends and teammates to get the help that they need. xx

Counseling services at OSU:

http://counseling.oregonstate.edu/

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:

1-800-273-8255

Failing

I think my biggest fear is failing.

I got this comment a little while back that said something along the lines of “you just seem like you have it all together,” and when I read that… it was hard not to laugh out loud.

Half the time I feel like I’m fucking everything up and the other time… honestly, its mostly just me thinking everything is going wrong. I am constantly worried about the outcome of my actions. I have so many dreams and they feel so close but I’m terrified of getting them. What if I accomplish these dreams and it’s nothing like I imagine?  What if I’m terrible at my future job? What if I hate it? What if I let the people I care about down?

There’s so much that’s unknown about life, I don’t want to miss out on things because I’m afraid of something that may or may not happen. I’m starting to realize that life is too short to pass up opportunities because of this irrational fear of failing. I just need to let go a little bit and let myself live. xx