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
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...
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
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.
THE WHAT NEXT...
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800.273.TALK
National Alliance on Mental Illness:
Mental Health America:
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.
Behind the Smile
by Meghin Williams, University of Nebraska Women's
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
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
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
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
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.
READ MORE FROM SHIMMY