This is my story and how it has shaped me today as a leader and a coach. The story shares details about my past that make me the person I am today.
When I was 18, my dad was arrested for a white-collar crime. At the time, I was living in Michigan, unaware of my family’s struggles back home in New York. On my birthday, my dad posted bail, and began a two-year legal battle before he was eventually convicted and sentenced to 4-12 years in prison. While all of this was happening, I was attempting to fulfill my lifelong goal of playing college hockey. This made me feel selfish due to the severe situation at home. My dad went to prison in June of 2013, two months before I stepped onto a college campus to live out a dream he and I had together. This was an incredibly difficult time for me. Since that day, I have struggled with my mental health, running the spectrum of emotions, with life changes occurring frequently and quickly.
When I arrived at school in August of 2013, I was determined to combat my mental health challenges. I immediately signed up for counseling once a week. However, even with the best intentions and momentarily feelings of improvement, I stopped attending these sessions after 3 months or so. They just didn’t feel right to me. Over the course of the next 4 years, I decided I would deal with my issues ‘my own way.’ I remember nights just bursting into tears without knowing why, or becoming aggressive with strangers at events I wasn’t even invited to. Through all of this, I tried my best to keep as much inside as possible.
My one goal during my challenges was to make sure that my mom was safe, happy as can be, and healthy. The least I could do for her was be successful, hopefully removing some emotional burden. Even if that meant that I struggled internally, at least I would succeed ‘on paper’ for her. This, however, did not make my internal struggles any better, and that crept onto other aspects of my life.
I am not going to sit here and say that my problems were unique or more pressing than others, but the one thing that I have learned is that nobody should tell you how to feel or how to react during these times. The thing that they can do is provide an ear, a hug, or even a name and phone number of someone more qualified to help. I did not have that number, but I did have that friend. CS was a shoulder to lean on during my sophomore year. I remember many times that he just listened or gave me a hug or removed me from situations. While I didn’t have the right professional resources, I did have him, and I know there are people out there struggling that don’t even have that. Other than CS, there were many others who helped me through my challenges, and I want to thank you all. You may not have realized how much a text or a call mattered, but it did, so thank you.
I own that I have not handled my mental health challenges perfectly. I have made mistakes that may have hurt myself, loved ones, or even innocent bystanders along the way. While my friend was able to remove me from situations occasionally, he could not provide professional guidance. He needed help. TAD could have helped me, my friend and my family right from the beginning. If CS had the opportunity to get advice or guidance, my life could have changed. Looking back on this time in my life, I have one piece of advice for both friends and individuals: don’t wait to seek support, and when you do, be open to trying different options in order to find the right fit.
Since working more closely with TAD I have found that sharing my story may have an important impact within the athletic community. I intend for this story to open doors for other athletes to speak out about their personal struggles. Life can throw unintended challenges your way. How you respond and process those moments can lead to giving back or providing support to improve someone else’s situation. Going forward I hope others can find and use TAD as a great resource to help when life throws those challenges.
Talk. Share. Help.