We don’t need permission to feel sad or hopeless or lost. And yet, somewhere along the way, we started to think there was something wrong with us if we couldn’t hold it all together. Our instinct is to believe the lie that the only acceptable answer to “How are you?” is an immediate, “Good, how are you?” We hide, instead of seeking help.
In the end, it’s easier to just shut out difficult feelings — to ignore them or bury them in other pursuits until we’ve forgotten their power over us. But that tactic only works for so long. Sooner or later, we have to face those feelings. And the longer they’ve been left to simmer just beneath the surface, the worse they seem when we finally confront them.
This is what WNBA player Kayla McBride experienced when the pandemic hit — for the first time, she didn’t have basketball to turn to. She recently shared her experience with anxiety in a piece for The Players’ Tribune, and it’s worth a read.
“I didn’t realize just how much I had let basketball be the thing that carried me — freed me from dealing with the things that were actually going on inside my mind. At least, until the world stopped,” she wrote.
McBride goes on to share how quickly her anxiety began to take over. She had spent her life building a dam to block out the anxious thoughts that plagued her, and basketball was the key to keeping that structure together. When it was gone, the dam broke. And she fell apart.
“I lost myself during quarantine,” she writes. “There were days when I didn’t get out of bed. I didn’t want to work out. I didn’t want to train. I didn’t want to be around anything or anybody. I couldn’t shut off the fact that I didn’t feel O.K.”
For McBride, as painful as it was, this process of breaking down led her to finally address issues that she had long been ignoring. She started seeing her anxiety triggers as something she had to address head-on and to manage with on-going effort. “Mental health is a journey,” she says. “It’s not a game that you either win or lose.”
She shares a valuable lesson through her vulnerability: it’s okay to fall apart. We were not made to be perfect, so it’s no use pretending to be. Maybe we’re afraid to show our struggles because we think others have it worse. Maybe we want to appear strong for those who look up to us. Or maybe we just don’t have the words to share how we’re feeling. Healing starts with admitting that we’re not okay, and we need help. It starts with bravely sharing our stories and knowing that there are others out there who feel the same.