Each email, text, tweet, and favorite that we have received over the past three weeks is encouragement and validation that we made the right decision to openly discuss depression and our individual struggles with it. We know that we aren’t alone.

I applaud my friends for using my personal website as an outlet and a speaker through which their voices are heard. I thank you for being open-minded and allowing me to digress from “normal” Coach Shimmy.com material and supporting us by reading the posts.

You’ve heard from Lindsay and Meghin. Now meet Doshia...

"The Why”
By Doshia Woods, Tulane University

May has a few distinctions and celebrations that are synonymous with the month. Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Cinco De Mayo…and wouldn’t you know it, Mental Health Awareness month.

In our society we have long wrestled with the proper use and acceptance of those struggling mentally. We struggle to talk about it; we struggle to be there for each other; we struggle to express ourselves. We all know someone that knows someone that suffers from: depression, bipolar, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, and a whole host of other mental health issues. We struggle for various reasons:

PERCEPTION: Cases where people should seek therapy and they don't. The fear of others knowing your struggles paralyzes you. The idea that somehow you're not as competent as you used to be. “You're soft,” creeps into your mind and literally freezes you. Your world collides between hurt, disappointment, frustration, rejection & sadness because the pain is building a barrier around your core. I've experienced those feelings myself. Not wanting to tell anyone my deepest hurt. Not wanting to tell anyone how I was abused. Not wanting anyone to know that PTSD is real. The flashbacks, nightmares, guilt, shame, and blame affected me. It did and still does. What will they think of me now and who will possibly love me? PTSD is real. Traumatic events happen in life but how will you let it affect you? Some days are better than others but don’t allow yourself to suffer alone, sitting in silence and drowning in your own thoughts. Therapy helped me, gave me an outlet and provided me with tools to coexist with that part of myself. Therapy allowed me to understand the reality of who I am, what I went through, but most importantly, WHAT I AM CAPABLE OF! I survived. I am a survivor and that perception fuels me.

VULNERABILITY: This is what stops most of us from going into the water & feeling free to express ourselves. We get to the edge, but can we really handle being vulnerable? Do I have the courage to speak on these internal emotions? Does the fear of “others knowing who I really am” scare me more than speaking about them? We seek help for almost everything else in our lives. If you’re learning a sport you hire a coach. If you have an ailment, you find a qualified Dr. If you’re struggling in school you Google a tutor. Yet, when it’s time for your mental needs you do nothing. You attempt to handle this on your own. Small problem, you’re not educated in that field. I don’t know the first thing about knee surgery so at the end of my freshman year in college I didn’t attempt to perform that procedure myself. After years of suppressing my past and working hard to ignore my pain, I sought help. I went weekly, slowly peeling back the layers of my life; the different abuses and adversities that revealed why now, in my adult life I react the way I do in certain situations. One of the toughest, yet best decisions of my life. Be smart and selective about whom you choose to be vulnerable with. Know your friends and your audience. When you do develop the courage to talk about your mental struggles, seek those friends who show empathy, compassion, sympathy, and are good listeners. I have a core of friends I know I can turn to on tough days and I am blessed to have them in my life and thankful for the time they make for me.

I highlighted a few reasons why I struggled talking about mental health. We all have our own reasons, fears and excuses. Your life is worth sharing and worth living. Writing poetry has provided an outlet for my feelings and pain. I’ve also developed an interest in yoga, meditation, running, (and a LOVE OF FACIALS!), to care for myself. Taking time for me and giving myself the freedom to feel whatever it is I feel. I do these things in order to invest in me. To invest in what I have to offer the world. To invest in my own happiness. Love yourself enough to love yourself unconditionally.


National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800.273.TALK

National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org

Mental Health America: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net 

The 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.

Meet Meghin....

Behind the Smile
by Meghin Williams, University of Nebraska Women's Basketball

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 questioning needed.

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 support.

For those grieving a suicide, don’t waste your time with, “Why’s” and “What If’s.” 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.

It’s been awhile since my last post and I’ve been receiving lots of interest in getting something out. I’m always one for giving the people what they want so here you go. Except this post wasn’t written by me. And the next couple of posts won’t be written by me. I’ve asked a few friends from the wonderful world of Women’s Basketball to help me out.

I’ve been rocked by the recent suicides that have stunned our profession and it created wonderful dialogue with some of my peers. We agree that the stigma of depression in athletics, particularly with women, where we try so hard to prove our toughness so as not to be perceived as, well, weak, is killing us. Literally.

During this dialogue, what I’ve discovered is at some point in our lives, we have, or someone close to us, has struggled with depression and we’ve all felt ill equipped to handle it alone. We all have very different, but similar stories, and we all would like to share those stories with the hope that they might resonate with someone...anyone.

I am honored that my peers would agree to use my personal website as an outlet for their voices. In orchestrating this vehicle, I accept that I might turn some people off. However, my goal in life is to be consistent and authentic. And in living a consistently authentic life, I’m going to turn a lot of people off. And that’s fine. I’m not for everyone. And neither is this website. But for those of you that I am for, here you go.

Meet Lindsey...

Dare I say the word depression?
by Lindsey Werntz, Tulane Women's Basketball

Dare I say the word depression? It is a word that is tainted. It is a word that means you are weak. It is a word that means you are an outcast. It is a word that only underachievers use. Right? Well for me that is not the case. Depression is a word that needs to be explored and talked about. Depression is a word that does not mean you are weak, but possibly lonely. Depression is a word that means you are like more of your some of peers than you could ever imagine. Depression is a word that many successful people have been ignoring or evading, possibly from fear of losing a job. I have been in college athletics as a professional for eleven seasons. I know first hand what depression is, because it was and still is a part of my life. The time is now to talk about the word DEPRESSION.

Every day I woke up not knowing how I would feel. I did not know if I would be my worst enemy. I did not know if I would remember what happened that day because of the fog that enveloped me. Every day I would look in the mirror and say, “you are a coach, you have to toughen up”. That is what I was taught for so many years. I was told that depression was for the weak. I was told that not everyone could handle working at the Division I level and that it wasn’t depression, but a lack of being tough. Every day I looked at the bottle of meds prescribed to me and wondered if I should just take them all at once.

Putting the word depression into perspective for me came during a dark time in my life. I was battling internal demons. I was going through change. I did not let anyone in on any level more than a surface relationship. I was finding comfort in alcohol because I thought it was my only loyal friend. It kept my secrets and numbed my pain. I was scared to ask for help. I was scared what my peers would think of me. I did not know if I would have a job. Who was I becoming?

The realities of depression needs to be talked about. There needs to be a dialogue. There are too many people in this world that do not feel they can talk about depression. I did not feel like I had an outlet. I kept everything to myself, yet I was my own worst enemy. I was not giving myself good advice. When I finally asked for help it was from people that did not understand what I was going through. It seemed as though they did not want to be bothered. They were not empathetic. Bury yourself into your work. It will go away. It did not go away for me.

Each day I put one shoe on at a time. I got into my car and I drove to therapy. I made a choice to get help from professionals. I made a choice to make people listen to me because my life did matter. Maybe not to you, but with time it mattered to me. I learned that my life was valuable. I learned that my time on earth was not maxed out yet. I learned that to feel again was to live again.

Someone loves you. You do not feel that when you are depressed. The one person you want to love you more than anyone else is yourself. The one honest relationship you want to have is with yourself. The one person that you want to please is yourself. Some of us need help realizing how to love ourselves, how to please ourselves, and how to have a healthy relationship with ourselves. It is okay to ask for help.

Silence is not the answer. Parents, get to know your children. Get the phones out of their hands at dinner and ask them how was their day. Understand that if your child has a mental health issue, you are not at fault. With love and understanding you can help your child through anything. They are scared. They are lonely. They need you. Coaches, administrators, support staff, and teammates, please be empathetic. To learn about depression and other mental health issues makes you a warrior and an advocate for someone that you love that could take their life simply because they felt like no one would listen to their cries for help. Athletic departments stop hiding behind the curtain because you don’t want to look like your players have “issues”. The reality is, college-aged athletes do have “issues” but you have a chance to stand tall and be heard. Be an athletic department that welcomes ALL athletes and ALL employees who need a safe place to perform.

I am a survivor of a suicide attempt. I am here to live and to talk about it. I am here to let you know that if you are going through something, there are others out there like you. I am here to tell you that it does get better. One day at a time. I am a walking example of how one day at a time it DOES get better. You are not alone. You can get through this. And you can live a life of happiness. One day at a time I will vow to tell my story to anyone that will listen because one more loss is one too many. One day at a time I will continue to give praise because I am still on this earth. One day at a time I will attempt to start a dialogue about the word depression. No longer will I keep it to myself.

Now that the dialogue surrounding depression has been opened, it is time to continue to discuss it. It is time to be empathetic towards those suffering from demons that you will never understand. It is time to ask tough questions and be supportive towards one another. It is time to stop lives from unnecessarily being lost because of depression.

I am currently in a healthy relationship where we talk about our feelings. I have a wonderful job where I get to make a difference with student athletes and peers. I am healthy. I am happy. I am alive. And I choose to talk to you about depression because no one talked to me about depression. It is time to get educated about issues that you might be uncomfortable discussing. It is time to stand up and work towards a positive change.



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