“Are you okay?” (By: Amari Harstfield)
Did you know that about 322 million people worldwide live with depression (Our World)? In 2014, around 15.7 million adults ages 18 or older suffered from a major depressive episode (National Institute of Mental Health). Sadness and grief are healthy human emotions, but depression is something more. There are 6 types of depression; Major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder (Dysthymia), premenstrual dysphoric disorder, depressive disorder due to another medical condition, adjustment disorder with depressed moods, and seasonal affective disorder. Each of these depressive disorders is familiar, similar, but each owns its own unique set of symptoms.
I can honestly say that I have experienced adjustment disorder with depressed moods. I typically experience adjustment disorder when I am overwhelmed or stressed about something that is out of my normality or my control. The time I experienced adjustment disorder as an athlete was when I was a part of the Track Team at North Carolina Central University. I was suffering from a meniscus tear, quadriceps tendonitis, and damage to my pica. A mess, right? During my sophomore year, I spent much time in and out of the doctor’s office and on crutches. As an athlete, not being able to participate in your sport can be the worst feeling ever. I was depressed because I could not partake in the sport I loved. I had to decide to stop running. That adjustment did not come easy; I separated myself from everyone, my grades began to fall, and I was mean to everyone that was in my path. I had no care in the world and I was 8 hours away from my family, who was still in New Jersey. Everything in my mind was going wrong, and I felt alone. I tried counseling, but that did not work. As a matter of fact, my counselor ended up leaving without telling me. It was not until my track coach pulled me into his office and sat me down that I felt someone cared. I remember it as if it was yesterday! His first question to me was, “are you okay?” I looked at him and, of course, said, “yes,” he then said to me, “are you sure? I can look into your eyes and tell there is something wrong.” And at that point, I began to cry. Crying was the beginning of my healing process. After that, we continued to check-in and I began to accept the fact that running from my issues was no longer an option for me. I had to figure out other ways to continue my love for the sport.
Another thing that helped me overcome this new adjustment was becoming more involved in the school. I joined different clubs, student activities clubs, and student government association, and I became known around campus. Today I am thankful that my coach took the time to come and ask me if I was okay.
One of the reasons I love working in athletics with student-athletes is because I understand what they go through regularly. I understand how it feels to be on top of my game and then be knocked off by an injury. I know how it feels not to know what will be happening next. I know how it feels not to want to admit having a mental health disorder. I am very sympathetic and empathic to all student-athletes because I was once one. Suffering from a mental health problem is something no one should take lightly. I am an advocate for mental health and advise anyone suffering to seek help. One thing my parents always tell me, “This too shall pass; if you pray, why worry, and if you worry, why pray.” Therefore, look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, “am I okay?”