On my way to becoming who I am today, I had to overcome a lot of obstacles and challenges. My biggest one presented itself during my junior year of college and started with a good old-fashioned injury. What followed after, however, really changed my life forever.
The Early Days
The injury forced me to sit out almost all of my indoor season. Towards the end of it, I tried to force a comeback. Little did I know at that time, but I wish I would have not done so. The following outdoor season was rocky, to say the least. I came back at approximately 70% but was never able to reach full speed. To top it all off, I crashed and fell during the finals of the 110m hurdles at the B1G championships, hurting myself even further.
While the injury was painful and caused physical problems, it impacted me mentally a lot more. "Frustration towards everything" is the best way to describe what I was feeling during that time. The frustration manifested itself in many different ways as I kept running. You see, before the injury, I felt like I had a chance to be an All-American and fight for a national championship against the top hurdlers in the nation. After the injury, however, I wondered if I should come back at all. I was struggling to cope with the situation.
My First Encounter With Depression
Eventually, I got encouraged to go see the sports therapist at Nebraska to explore if my problems are caused by something deeper. As our meetings continued, he diagnosed me with depression. At the time, I just shrugged it off. I didn't really grasp the magnitude of it and continued to just deal with it how I did before. I started distancing myself from my friends, lost relationships that I cherished, and barely talked to my family anymore. The same lifestyle continued all the way through the following offseason. I even carried it with me into my senior year and wasn’t performing well at first because of it.
Despite winning some events, nothing felt satisfying and with each race, I just became angrier. I felt like all these years of running were worthless. I was performing well, don't get me wrong. I would win some races and even record season-best times. But inside, the frustrations just continued to grow. It made me think that all those practices where I couldn’t feel my legs and filled trash cans with puke were pointless.
The Downward Spiral
Slowly but surely, the depression transferred into other areas of my life. Not just track. My grades started slipping, my social life was non-existent and I didn't take care of myself physically or mentally. I continued to sink more and more into this mindset of ‘why even bother’. In front of people, I would only show the anger that I felt and tried to cover it up with smiles and laughs. When I was alone, however, I couldn’t hold it in. I would lash out, cry, and even think about self-harm.
It’s hard to even talk about it but I got to the point where I decided to take my own life. September 25, 2022, was the last day I wanted to be here on earth. I used that date as an excuse to turn away from a lot of my problems. Regardless of the problem, I knew that I wouldn’t have to deal with it for long. I just couldn’t see anything ahead of me anymore and only saw darkness. I would joke and laugh about it a lot in public and on social media because why not laugh at my own pain.
My Saving Grace
The moment that turned my life around was when my high school hurdles coach, Stephanie Stephenson, talked to me one day. She told me that she read my tweets and talked to me about it. It literally took everything inside of me to not cry in front of her. She made sure that I was okay and shared her own struggles and honestly, I never felt such a heavy weight fall of my heart.
That day, I realized that there are a lot of people in my life that want to see me keep going and march forward. This encounter may have not changed me immediately, but I started my journey to recovery. A few months later, I can say with 100% confidence that I don't want to take my own life anymore.
This is the time that I need to thank all my teammates, coaches, friends and family that had to deal with all the frustration I had built up. When I turned away from them, they stayed right there and welcomed me back with open arms. My family made me aware that I have people that pray for me every day. My teammates and friends here in Nebraska assured me that I’m not alone and that they’ll lift me up whenever I fall. My coaches guided me to the path I needed to be on to become the greatest I could be.
I stopped letting my frustration dictate my actions and emotions. It felt like someone lifted two tons off my heart. I got faster than I could ever imagine and grabbed every accomplishment that was in reach. Every step I took felt like someone was pushing my back, cheering for me to win another race. All in all, I have to say from being the B1G Indoor Athlete of the Year, to Nebraska's Athlete of the Year, to my NCAA runner-up accolades for the 60-meter hurdles race indoors, the people around me deserve all the praise that the world has to offer. I wouldn’t have been able to step out of my darkness without them.
My advice to all of you. Check on your friends and family regularly and be there for them. You never know what impact your little actions and words can have.