response and reaction to our first post of our
:You Just Never Know" series has been
overwhelming and unexpected. The goal was to
reach someone, anyone. Based on the number of
tweets, re-tweets, and texts I've received this
past week, we've reached many. So let's keep it
going. We're in the student-athlete business.
Without them, there would be no us. Meet one of
them... or someone that used to be one of them.
And listen to what she has to say... please.
Behind the Smile
by Meghin Williams, University of Nebraska
On Friday May 8th 2015, I received a phone call
that my childhood friend Adrienne attempted
suicide. I sat in silence. No words, no deep
breaths, no tears, I just sat. When the silence
over the phone cleared, (5 seconds that felt
like 5 minutes), I asked "How?" The response:
"She hung herself with an extension cord."
Simply put, easily understood, no further
I was told she was in the hospital, on life
support. Over 250 people visited her to say
their imminent goodbyes. By midnight she was
gone. It was no longer a suicide attempt. It was
an actual suicide.
I made a few phone calls but still, not one
tear. Just me relaying the message in the same
cold fashion that it was relayed to me. When all
calls were made, I took a deep breath of fresh
air, and just sat.
The questions on everyone's mind: "Why? How
could she do this? Did she not see how loved she
was?" These people had never experienced
depression. I have.
For those of you that have never dealt with
depression, let me give you an idea of what it's
like. Imagine digging a hole eight feet deep. I
say eight feet because six feet is death and you
feel lower than that. The hole is just big
enough to fit you. Now imagine seeing no light,
you're alone, in darkness and silence. The
people walking by can't hear or see you and they
step over the hole as if you are invisible. It
is dark, lonely and suffocating. The world keeps
spinning, people keep moving, daily tasks keep
getting checked off of lists; you don't scream
for help because you don't want any. You just
want to sit in your hole, until it's over.
Now imagine that depression as a scholarship
athlete. That was my sophomore year of college.
I had come from sunny California to "the good
life" of Nebraska. I was injured, homesick,
struggling in the classroom, and it was the
first time in my life that I considered myself
below average. I was in the hole and didn't know
it. Coaches wondered "what happened to the girl
we recruited," many sit down talks of "Meghin
you have to do better, if you don't we can't
keep you here." What they didn't see was that I
didn't know how to do better. I didn't know how
to pull myself up.
The summer of my sophomore year, Coach Sunny
Smallwood threw me a shovel. She had spent a lot
of time recruiting me and knew that the person I
was that year was not me. She invested in me. We
read books and created concepts that helped me
get through my daily routine. I started meeting
with a counselor. Week by week I climbed out of
the hole. Week by week I beat depression.
On Friday, May 8th 2015, I did not lose my
friend to suicide -- I lost her to depression. I
did not lose her to a choice that she made, I
lost her because she felt she had no choice. Two
years ago she posted a black and white selfie on
Instagram. The caption read: "Nobody really
knows what's going on deep down behind the
smile." Depression is real. Whether you spend a
week or two years in the hole, it is real.
For those that are depressed know that you have
purpose, and every morning you are given the
opportunity to find your purpose. Talk to
someone; a friend, a family member, a stranger,
anyone. "Sometimes getting the wind knocked out
of you is the only way to remind your lungs how
much they like the taste of air."
For those that know someone who is going through
depression -- don't ignore the signs! The
canceled plans from someone who is normally
reliable. The unfamiliar silence from the usual
life of the party. The Instagram post with
cryptic interpretations. Ask questions and
listen. Do not offer solutions. Offer love and
For those grieving a suicide, don't waste your
time with, "Why's" and "What Ifs." You will
drive yourself insane. Focus on positive
memories and be a bridge for opening dialogue
about depression, suicide, and loss. Find
comfort in the air of your own lungs.