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"My Story"

An Article by: Isabella Mendoza
Published: October 16th, 2022

"My Story"

As an athlete from a young age you learn to bury things down and keep things to yourself. Whether it be injury or emotions it can become a way of life to some. Growing up for me as someone who was independent from a very early age and dealing with childhood trauma, soccer was the only joy I’ve ever known in my life. Being bullied or treated differently by people I only had soccer to turn to because no one on my soccer team ever went to school with me so I could try and be someone different.

I never talked about my emotions growing up and wasn’t very close with my parents and talking to my mom about how I would be feeling. I let my frustration, anger, sadness, and anxiety build up over the course of my childhood and I developed serious depression, anxiety, and what I didn’t know at the time to be an eating disorder that would affect my daily life since I was 14 years old. Having a parent who wanted nothing to do with me and another that would cause so much emotional trauma over the course of high school, adding a knee injury and losing a family member on top of that along with my grades in school declining I felt that I had nothing left to live for and I attempted to take my life. I was 16 years old and my brother unknowingly knocked on the bathroom door scaring me and leading me to not follow through. I didn’t tell anyone until I got to college that I attempted to commit suicide in high school. I felt so ashamed of who I was and the decisions I made in my life and wanted to restart when it came to college.

That is a major reason why I decided to go across the country and get a fresh start at life, and soccer. Coming to UMass has made me realize that I can ask for help when I need it, my freshman year wasn’t smooth dealing with covid in 2020, and transitioning to college was difficult on its own. I found myself taking on a lot of emotional baggage and constantly having major emotional breakdowns that would not only affect me mentally but physically as I would continue to get hurt over and over again. I developed such a negative mindset and outlook on life that I found it normal when it really wasn’t and I had a serious anger problem and didn’t know how to regulate my emotions.

As my sophomore year came around I was dealing with so much stress from summer classes, illness, getting in shape for the fall season, and summer teams I found it very difficult to cope. I was not eating food that much and I was not dealing with emotions well, trying to hide how I felt and ignore those emotions altogether. It's not healthy to keep those things to yourself or act like they aren’t there at all. As our season got underway the anxiety and stress led to me not taking care of myself again, falling into the constant cycle of being overwhelmed, getting hurt, and having it take a greater toll on me emotionally. I began to slowly start seeking help to try and learn to regulate these emotions after my coach recommended I meet with our sports psychologist.

I never really thought about seeking help or getting therapy as I thought it wouldn’t work for me but it can help so much. I began to feel overwhelmed with everything that was going on in my life and found that I wasn’t feeling anything or didn’t care about anything anymore. I then turned to self harm, I was cutting myself multiple times a day and saw nothing wrong with what I was doing. I continued to hurt myself and was open with certain people and telling them what I was doing and they tried to help me as best as they could.

It came to November where my soccer season was coming to an end, and school for me was beyond too much for me to handle and I didn’t know what to do. I turned to the one person who understood and supported me the most the whole time I was struggling up to this point. Lauren Bonavita is one of my teammates, yes; but she is my best friend and the one person who was helping me in any way she could and was always there to support me.

Our team was in Ohio for our conference championships, she was trying to help me settle down and let me know that I was okay when I felt that my life was worthless and I didn’t want to live anymore. I personally made up my mind the day before our final game that I wanted to end my life, I didn’t tell anyone but I knew when I got home from this trip I was going to end my life no matter what happened in our game. That night prior to our final game I was self harming and I decided to let Lauren know and have her take away my razor so I wouldn’t do it again. After our final game I completely broke down and accepted what I was planning to do and that I was done with life. I decided to tell Lauren after the game on the bus what I was going to do when I got home from flying back from Ohio. She and our teams athletic trainer stayed with me the whole time while traveling back to UMass and decided to call the suicide hotline for help while waiting to fly home in the airport in Ohio. They recommended I go the the emergency room when I get back to campus. When we got back to campus Lauren drove me straight to the emergency room and waited with me for a while so I could get the help that I needed. At this point my mom was told the situation and she flew out as soon as she could to come see me. But at this point I was in the emergency room for almost 2 days and was transported to a psychiatric facility for my own safety so I couldn’t hurt myself and could heal and receive the help that I needed.

After spending what felt like the longest week of my life with no contact with anyone besides my mom, Lauren, and one of my roommates, Liv I felt so isolated but it was definitely something that I needed to do for my health and wellbeing. After my experiences I am still healing and struggling at times but i have learned new ways to manage my emotions and I have a greater appreciation for life and am so grateful that Lauren did what was best for me and helped me by saving my life and not letting me commit suicide. I will forever be grateful for everything that she has done to save my life and being my biggest support system along with her family for being my home away from home.

I am not perfect and still struggle at times and that's alright. Seeking help and being vulnerable is the biggest reason that I am able to manage my feelings/emotions and anxiety and I found it extremely helpful to help others who may be struggling and supporting others by speaking up about mental health issues and working with organizations to help end the stigma behind mental health and mental health in student athletes.

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