Why It’s Okay to Not be Okay
by Julia Carr, USA Field Hockey Contributing Author & Colby-Sawyer College Student-Athlete
Photo Courtesy of Colby-Sawyer College
Anxiety and depression can hit anyone at any given moment. That is something I never fully understood until it happened to me. It took me until I was looking at myself in the mirror and saying, “wow I am not happy at all” to realize this. The worst part about this feeling was that I never fully understood why I was feeling that way. I mean, what did I have to be unhappy about? At the time this all started I thought nothing. I was a sophomore in college, I had a great family and lots of amazing friends, I was doing great in school, and I was playing Division III field hockey for an amazing team and coach. So, what did I have to be so upset about?
I felt that I was not supposed to feel sad or unhappy, I was supposed to be having the time of my life. I felt that I needed to be mentally tough not only for myself but for the people around me. When we got sent home from school due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), my mental symptoms worsened. I suddenly didn’t want to go anywhere, and when I did, I was irritable. But still, I didn’t ask for anyone’s help. I thought it would just magically get better. In fact, it took me a year to finally want to get any help from anyone.
Looking back on it, all I wanted to do was push through and be okay and I couldn’t. Which was frustrating to me. Everything else in my life I was able to overcome on my own, but this feeling just wasn’t going away. For a little bit, I even thought the worst thought imaginable and it was so difficult to dig myself out of that hole. I didn’t want to ask for help. I didn’t think I was allowed to feel my feelings because I was an athlete, and I was supposed to be strong and tough it out. I didn’t want to be a burden. And I was embarrassed about all my feelings. But the thing is, I wasn’t a burden and I had nothing to be embarrassed about.
When I finally opened up about my struggles with depression and anxiety, my team was there for me no questions asked. From this, I learned the very hard lesson that it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to take time for yourself, it is okay to get help, and it is okay not to be mentally tough all the time. I thought that mental health was something that I had to deal with on my own, but all I needed was people in my corner. My therapist, family, friends and teammates have been the greatest support system through all my mental health issues. Especially at a time where you can feel so alone and on your own. Having people around me made all the difference. Most importantly, they made me want to get better and get help.
Everyone has their own struggles, and everyone has their own ways of getting help. I can say confidently is that it is okay to not be okay. You don’t have to feel perfectly fine all the time. And you aren’t alone. It is difficult, especially as an athlete. But you have so many people in your corner. Your teammates and coaches are some of the best people to talk to. They understand the pressures that come with being a student-athlete, and in my case, that made all the difference. So many athletes have hid their mental health struggles, and I know many continue to do so. Many hide for the same fears that I have. Whatever your fears may be, it is always okay to ask for help. Most importantly, it is okay to not be okay. Don’t hide your feelings, embrace them and embrace the change that you need.