My Battle with Mental Health Potter's point of view

By Emily Potter

I have been struggling with whether or not to write this — to say anything at all. The thing about mental health is that people still stigmatize it, and people are still afraid to talk about it. I admittedly am one of those people, but when I was presented with the opportunity to write about mental health, I felt like it was a sign. I knew I needed to speak up.

Last October, I lost a close friend to suicide. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. It was such a shock when it happened because I had no idea she was struggling. That’s when I realized collectively, we need to do better when addressing mental health. It is because of my desire to honor my beautiful friend that I want to open up the conversation about mental health and share my story.

I remember when I first felt symptoms of depression. It was a few years ago, and it never lasted longer than a few days. I knew what I was feeling wasn’t normal, but I thought it would be better if I handled it by myself. Back then, I could always pull myself out of it, until the day I no longer could.

In October, everything starting crumbling. It wasn’t one thing that was falling apart — it felt like it was everything all at once. My friend passing away, me not playing to my potential in basketball practice and my struggles in personal relationships seemed to all hit me so much harder. Still, I told myself I could ride it out and that I was fine.

I kept waiting to feel like myself again, but I made it through each day and no one said anything to me, so I figured I was doing pretty well. I wonder if anyone could even notice I was pretending?

I can confidently say I love basketball more than the average person. I have dedicated half of my life to excelling at the sport, and I came to the University of Utah to earn my degree and become the best player I could be. But for the first time in my career, I wasn’t enjoying myself. My senior season was just beginning, but when I woke up in the morning, I didn’t feel that same passion. It didn’t matter that I was a good basketball player — mental health doesn’t discriminate.

Depression makes me feel like it takes all my strength to get out of bed or return text messages. I tell myself after pretending like everything is fine for a few hours a day during a practice, I can then head straight home to climb back into bed, but every day when I get there, I never feel any better. I either sleep as much as I possibly can or barely sleep at all, and still, I feel perpetually tired. It’s like walking in a thick fog that I can’t focus in or find my way out of.

Fulfilling my everyday responsibilities as a student-athlete seems like the hardest task in the world, when really, it’s something I know I love and enjoy. I’m supposed to show up every day to basketball practice with focus, energy and intensity, but some days I can’t even concentrate on the square of the backboard to get a layup through the hoop. I’m usually a confident person, but at times I second guess every decision I make.

My whole purpose in writing this piece is so others know they are not alone. Please tell someone if you are struggling. It does not make you weak — it actually makes you incredibly courageous and strong. Please ask your friends and family how they are doing, and don’t be content if they say they are good. Dig deeper and let your loved ones know you’re available to listen. Spread the word, because together we can end the stigma.

The full version of this story appears in the mental health print issue of The Utah Chronicle and on The Daily Utah Chronicle site.


Adam Fondren

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