mental health for athletes

Not All Wounds Are Visible

Identity is the strongest force we possess as a human being. When you know who you are within your heart you are pulled towards wonderful experiences. Because you can not know anything if you do not know yourself! Yet why do so many people live in lack? The feeling of never doing enough or never being enough.

Let’s target athletes, especially young kids and college athletes. Why is it that so many of them seem to have wounds inside their brains and hearts?

The evidence is staggering: In a recent study done by the American College Health Association, in the last 12 months of students:

  • 53.1% felt hopeless
  • 63.2% felt very lonely
  • 41.4% felt so depressed it was so difficult to function
  • 62.3 felt overwhelming anxiety
  • 11.3% seriously considered suicide

The evidence is clear that young adults are dealing at alarming rates with stress, anxiety depression and suicide. Unfortunately rarely do these things get talked about until it makes headlines and/or something unfortunate happens.

It’s not that we do not care about others or that we do not want to find solutions for these individuals but for most it’s the assumption that it’s not their kids or athletes on their teams. But all these kids and young adults think they’re the only ones dealing with these voices and have no idea who or where to turn.

How do I know this? Because I was one of those statistics in every single one of those categories. That is the number one reason I was pulled into mentoring individuals across the country because I know whatever team or group of people I am standing in front of over half of them are masking emotions internally.

Emotional Identity

It’s hard for individuals to stop and consider who they are as people. What is the identity that they want! Parents, coaches, teachers, friends and even social media are programming to people what their identity should look like. When you ask yourself a question and the brain can not find an immediate answer people assume it’s impossible.

That’s one of the biggest reasons people say they lack confidence because they have programmed to believe that they should be good at something immediately. 

There is the old saying “to have more you must become more”, the essence of what that means is that to continue to make progress on anything in life you must continue to upgrade your identity. Continuing to add pieces of personality into who you are as a person.

For so many people their emotional identity is centered on the external instead of their inner being. Spending so much of their energy, effort and focus on everything outside of themselves they begin to question themselves…

They start asking questions like: Have I done enough? Have I accomplished enough? Am I deserving of this grade or spot on the team? Have I prepared myself enough?

There are a million thoughts and questions flooding their mind that steal all their power away as a person! Stealing their identity! Because there is an extreme power in language…

The way we say things to ourselves drives the way we think. How you say things shapes your identity…

If someone asks you if you want a cigarette, you say no and they ask why not? Your typical response is something along the lines of “I don’t smoke” or “I am not a smoker”. That’s part of your identity.

How does Identity shape Athletes

The greatest gift to give anyone is the ability to define who they are. Describe the person and identity they love and appreciate. Even when you ask people to describe themselves half of their answers begin with “well i have been told X” and many times they just adopt whatever it is people say.

Where I truly work with individuals is stopping, thinking and describing the most badass version of themselves.

On top of that far too many coaches and parents teach their kids suffering. They put posters up and tell them everyday “No Pain, No Gain”, “Suck it up”, “You must fail or suffer before you can have success”…

No wonder kids are constantly in search of pain, suffering and failure!

The scary part is this is how people BECOME ADDICTED TO PAIN AND SUFFERING!

True story: I was chatting with one of the college kids I mentor and things were going great for months! Then over the past couple weeks their performance started to take a downward spiral…

When I spoke to them about a week ago they seemed to be in kinda good spirits about what was going on so I just let them feel their emotions. Well their performance suffered a little more. Now when we got on the phone we started talking about where this was coming from and is paraphrase form they said:

When things were going great, I felt I knew I needed something bad to happen in order for me to grow past my current performance!

They have literally trained themselves that continual growth can not happen! Now it does not mean bad things or moments of poor performance do not show up in our lives. But we don’t run around looking for them. 

I followed up by asking, “Do you believe you need to fail in order to succeed?” Their response was “yes”. Now we were on to something…(because that is not true)

You see that was part of their identity. Part of their personality, how they think, act and feel everyday.

You Are Not Alone

I have spoken in front of parents about the issues of suicide, depression and anxiety countless times. The interesting part is from time to time I come across a group of parents that are furious about talking about these topics in front of them or their kids…

I am never angry or annoyed but think this is why so many people are living in suffering. It’s more of a response like so half of the kids in this room are sad, lonely or depressed. Which ones do you think it is? Silence!

These kids, young adults and honestly people in general are starving to talk about these things. These voices in their minds and wondering where they came from. The feeling in their heart of not deserving to live, but confused why they feel this way.

In another study done by The Healthy Minds Survey:

  • 86% of students who commited suicide did not seek help from mental health services.
  • 61% of people with mental health conditions were not getting help.

That’s what freakin inspires me every single morning. I am on a mission to end suffering for these kids and athletes. Understanding what it’s like to wonder if life is worth living for.

I have sat on that dorm room bed and thought if I just swallow enough of these pills that hopefully I won’t wake up in the morning. That pain and suffering is not easy to deal with. It’s even tougher to deal with when people only see the outside of you telling you how lucky you are.

The only thing you can think about is “if you only knew”. Then you wonder if this is what a great life looks like. What’s the point?

You wake up every single morning feeling like an imposter. Thinking it’s time to put on this mask and pretend like everything in my life is great. Maybe you have all the accomplishments, grades, championships and loads of friends yet you still feel empty inside.

You keep trying to fill the void with more wins, championships or the next best thing like a successful career. But you continue to wake up even with a dream job wondering why you feel empty.

Wondering when will someone notice these wounds that are destroying my heart, mind and life.  Never knowing that it really just boils down to knowing and defining your true identity.

That’s why the mission is to help people open up about these wounds. Guide them towards defining what they want in life. No one lives a satisfying life living someone else’s goals or desires. It’s why I did a TED talk on “Repairing the Identity Crisis”.

If you are reading this and feel like you can relate, you are not the only one. Stop fighting against it. The daily fight makes life exhausting!

You are loved, deserving and the most worthy person to walk this Earth!

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