Part 1: Diagnosis and High School

I’ve been wondering how I should start this part of my blog. A lot of people know about my history with postpartum depression; it was the whole reason I started Little Mama Jewels in the first place. Truth be told, my mental health “journey” started when I was around 13 years old. So here goes…

I remember very vividly having anxiety attacks at a very young age (younger than 13), but I had no idea what they were at the time. Around the age of 13 or 14 though, my parents started to see some signs that worried them. My mom was also struggling with her mental health at the time, and looking back I can’t imagine what my parents were going through. I had always been a pretty polite kid, although my intensity over the years has always been over the top. I was the youngest in my family by 5 years, so I was essentially an only child for a while when I was in high school.

It was the beginning of my freshman year and my parents were worried about me. I wasn’t listening and was quite frankly being a pain in the ass (more so than the average freshman in high school). I remember lying to my parents about driving around with friends from high school (which was not allowed because I was only 14 and had a farm permit — driving around with people other than my parents was illegal). It all came to a head when my dad asked me about driving around and I lied to my parents’ face.

I remember going to Hastings, Nebraska where my uncle had a family health clinic. I met with a doctor who specialized in mental health and that’s when I got my “official” diagnosis of depression. Anxiety wasn’t even mentioned at the time. Being told when you’re 13 or 14 that you have “clinical depression” is kind of a blow. How in the hell is a freshman in high school supposed to explain why she takes Lexapro, cries for no reason and is moody? (By the way, Lexapro completely turned my 14 year old self into a zombie. I actually tried more than 5 different medicines while in high school!)

I struggled all throughout high school with my mental health. I threw myself into sports and made them my top priority. Consequently, I was so intense about sports, I hurt friendships and relationships. I didn’t have a ton of friends. I was, quite frankly, a bully and struggled with interactions with peers. I was intense (still am, but in a much healthier way!). There were three injuries that brought me back down to earth and honestly, helped me become the person I am today.

My freshman year of high school, I had a phenomenal track season. I went to the state track meet ranked #1 in the 100M and 200M dashes. (I am not sharing this story to gloat, I promise. I’m just giving context and I’ll be the first to tell you that I needed to be kicked down about 403 notches). In the finals of the 100M dash at the state track meet, I tore my hamstring and my dream of a state championship was over. I rehabbed all summer and prayed my sophomore year would be better.

Fast-forward to basketball season my sophomore year: I didn’t want to go out for basketball; I actually don’t like basketball much at all (ironic since I’m married to a basketball coach). In February of my sophomore year, I tore my ACL. My dream of getting that state championship back in track went down the drain. Rehab lasted almost 9 months.

My junior year was tough. I was so scared of re-injuring my knee that I didn’t play to my potential in volleyball. I didn’t go out for basketball. I did make it back to the state track meet and placed 6th in the 200M. Things finally started to come together in between my junior year and senior year. I felt really good. Friendships were going well, I felt like I was being a better person and honestly I felt like I had a handle on my mental health. I was more confident than I ever remember being (at that time). My high school volleyball career ended on September 1, 2009 when I tore my other ACL. I was crushed. I had hoped to play volleyball or run track in college and when I came down from blocking a ball, my right knee gave out and my season was over.

I spent the remainder of that season rehabbing and set my sights on the state track meet. I made it back my senior year, qualifying with 3 other girls in the 4 x 100m relay. Didn’t medal, but I was proud of myself for making it back after such a serious injury.

I don’t tell these stories because I want pity. I tell these stories because they helped shape me into the woman I am today. I honestly believe that going through those trials and tribulations in high school gave me more coping skills than I ever knew I had, when it came to coping with mental health. I’ve said all along that the events that changed my path in high school helped me deal with my mental health journey. So that’s how it all got started – injuries started my journey to becoming a healthier me. It took two major surgeries, loading the dream of being a state champion and losing a dream of being a collegiate athlete to help get me where I am today. Maybe that Garth Brooks song really is true…sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.

I’ll continue my mental health journey through college and adulthood in another post. This is one of the deeper things I’ll be sharing on this page, and if you’re still reading this, thank you. It’s not necessarily easy for people to talk about mental health, but I will say, I feel better and freer when I share my stories. Hopefully, in some way, I can help someone out there who’s been struggling. Remember you’re never alone and you are so loved.

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