It’s the Climb

By Alyssa Voccia, Graduate Assistant Coach, Lenoir-Rhyne University  @LRUwlacrosse

In life we tend to have a vision of how we want things to go. Unfortunately, life isn’t that simple and just when we think we have things figured out, we hit a bump in the road. While it would be nice for things to always pan out perfectly, I think the beauty of life is hidden in those bumps and turns along the way. Life has a weird way of falling into place and working itself out.

Photo by Stacey Wylie, courtesy of Limestone Athletics.

As my senior year of college started to wind down, I had full intentions of getting a job in the computer science field. After hearing multiple “no’s” and with my season coming closer to an end, I found myself not ready to be done with lacrosse and began looking at coaching positions. There happened to be an opening for a newer program close to home and I quickly found myself applying. It was in writing my cover letter that I realized a large reason that I wanted to get into coaching.

For those that know me, they know that I am normally one of few words. I tended to be someone that would hold a lot of stuff in and felt like there was no one that I could go to. This wasn’t healthy. At all. It eventually caught up with me. I would say that problems started to build up in the spring of freshman year and I had done a really good job at hiding it and just let it slowly build up over the course of the semester. Fast forward to the fall of my sophomore year when we hosted our fall play and I saw our old assistant Carlee Buck (CB). It was the end of the day and we had stopped to talk when she noticed that something wasn’t right and asked if everything was ok. I was taken aback at first because I thought I had been doing a good job at hiding it. I was reluctant to open up at first because that meant coming to reality with what I was feeling. I felt that if I just held it in and brushed it to the side and tried to not think about, that it would eventually just go away. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. I finally decided to open up to CB and it was the best thing that I could have ever done for myself.

CB knows better than anyone that I have had a lot of dark days where I couldn’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel. She was someone that I knew I could go to, even when she was busy and had a million other things going on, she always made the time. Throughout the next two and a half years I basically suffered in silence because I didn’t want people to know that I wasn’t ok. While I would talk to CB often, I was still holding a lot of stuff in. Partly because I knew that she worried a lot and it isn’t always comforting having the feeling that people are worried about you. I also wasn’t ready yet to come to terms with what I was going through. Honestly, there are days that I look back and feel bad about some of the things that I had said. She was the one person that I could go to and she took the brute force of everything that I had been holding in. Not once did she ever ask me to stop and she continued to be there for me. For that, I will always be thankful.

In the fall of my senior year I had an internship with our sports information department. One of my jobs was developing a website for the school’s Game Changer program. This is a program that provides mental health resources to athletes and coaches. It offers free 24/7 access to a counselor over the phone and a set number of face-to-face visits. Before I began creating the website, I had a phone call with Dr. Mehra, the CEO of the National Center for Performance Health. One of the topics that we discussed were some of the challenges of the program and areas that I thought were going to be the toughest to break through. My response was getting people to actually call and go see someone. It was a pretty ironic answer considering I was one of those people that really needed to go but couldn’t find it in myself to actually get there. Unfortunately, that’s the case for most people dealing with mental health issues. The thought of getting help is really great, but it’s difficult to get yourself to the point of actually going.

Spring rolled around and I still hadn’t taken the initiative to get help. Season was just getting started and I was trying to make the best of my last year, which comes and goes a lot faster than you think. While we won our first game, I don’t think it went the way that we had anticipated. It was just the start and I had already found myself frustrated, partly because I knew that I could have done better (We had also had a scrimmage the week before where I hadn’t played as well as I thought I should have and so the frustration had built up). CB texted me after the game and I had expressed my frustration. She asked me if I would go and talk to the counselor at school and said she would reach out to her for me. I brushed it off at first and said that I had been thinking about calling the number for the Game Changer program that the school offered, something I knew that I would never do. I just wasn’t ready to “give in” to getting help. I had gone back and forth with myself and after a couple days I finally asked her to reach out to our school counselor… something that I never thought I would be able to do. While I was waiting to get in to see the counselor our season had picked up and we were in full swing. We had a strong 2-0 start, beating the team we had lost to the previous year in the NCAA tournament. Our third game we played Tampa and lost to them for the first time in school history, 20-11. You can’t win every game; I think that’s something we all know. I couldn’t let this one go, though. I let it consume me. It was all that I could think about for a while. The game was on a constant loop in my head and I kept thinking about what could have gone differently. Along with holding a lot of stuff in, I’m also really bad at letting things go. I tend to look back on things and think about what I could have done differently, even if it was something that I couldn’t control. The wheels in my head are constantly turning. I really just needed to get out of my own head.

The day finally came where it was time for me to go to my meeting. I still remember the day exactly. Anxiously walking up the stairs and sitting in the waiting room trying to think of excuses of why I couldn’t be there. I didn’t end up leaving. It came my time to go in and try to explain what was going on and how I was feeling. Two of the things that I hate the most. I think one of the hardest parts about it is trying to explain what’s wrong when you’re not even really sure. It’s just a feeling that you have and there isn’t really an explanation for it. As painful as it was, it was also freeing at the same time. Being able to have someone understand what you’re going through without even fully understanding it yourself is a really great feeling because it validates what you’re going through even if it doesn’t make sense to you. By being able to talk through things I was able to see things from a different perspective. Often times we get so caught up in seeing things from only one point of view that we aren’t able to see the whole picture. I continued going throughout the remainder of the semester and while it was still uncomfortable, it did get a lot easier and that feeling of having a lot of stuff shoved away started to go away. It wasn’t an overnight change, but gradually I found myself being able to let go of things that I had been feeling.

It’s not easy asking for help. It took me three years to get the help that I needed. I could be mad at myself for taking so long, but instead I choose to be happy that I finally got myself to that point. I spent a lot of time being in a room full of people and feeling like I was all alone. It is one of the most uneasy feelings. I felt like I was all alone even though there were so many people around. I let that go on for three years. It got to the point where I broke down crying in the middle of Dunkin’ to my best friend Megan because I didn’t know what to do. Now, when I look back on these moments it makes me happy to think about where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.

There are going to be a lot of ups and downs in life. That’s just how it works. It’s important to not let the lows consume you. It may not seem like it at first, but it does get better and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The lows can’t last forever, even though it may seem like it. I’ve been trying to enjoy those in between moments. Life shouldn’t be about waiting for that next really great high point and we shouldn’t think about that eventual low. I’ve spent a lot of time living in my own head that I missed out on a lot of these great moments that happen in between. I would say that I have changed a lot since seeing our counselor and definitely for the better. I’ve learned to open up more and be more present. There are going to be a lot of things in life that we can’t control and it’s important to not get caught up in those things. I’ve learned to let things go and enjoy what life has to bring. Is everyday really great? No, but I also choose not to let that continue to build up and take it for what it is. I know firsthand that it is difficult going to someone with your problems, however it is such a freeing thing and so worth it in the end. There is no reason to feel alone in your fight because there are so many people around you that want to help and see you happy.

Fast forward to today and I am about a month into my coaching career as a graduate assistant at Lenoir-Rhyne working for CB. It’s kind of funny to see things come full circle. She played a large part in why I wanted to get into coaching. She impacted my life in a huge way, and I feel like if I am able to help at least one person the way that she helped me, it would all be worth it. Before writing this post, I had never discussed with my parents what I was going through. I don’t think any of us want to have our parents worry about us, especially being away at college. When I finished writing this, I knew that I needed to tell them before they heard about it from someone else. I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for the initial response. I facetimed my mom and with technology being as good as it is, had it freezing every 2 seconds so you could barely understand what the other person was saying. I tried to explain to her how I had written this post about what I went through in college and didn’t say anything because I didn’t want them to worry. Her initial reaction caught me off guard and the conversation quickly changed to my dog and how she spoiled him and that I needed to continue that regimen. I told her that I was going to send her a copy of what I wrote and didn’t get a response for 20 minutes. All the while I had been freaking about because I didn’t get a response and didn’t know what to think. My first reaction was what did I just do. I finally got a response and it was comforting to hear how she was proud of me for writing this, that she was happy that I had people around for me, and that she was happy that I am in a good place. It was hard, but it was a little easier to tell my dad. It also helped that he was visiting so I could talk to him in person, and he was just as supportive and happy that I was happy. Writing this wasn’t easy and it’s not any easier actually saying something that I’ve kept hidden away for years. I’ve had a few people read this over and all of them have said the same thing: how proud they are and that it’s going to help a lot of people. Every time that I have a doubt about whether or not to send this post in, I think about that and realize that if someone reads this and it helps them, then what I feel now will be worth it.

Every day isn’t going to be great. There are going to days when it seems like nothing is going your way. Don’t let those bad moments build up. Know that those days don’t last. There is nothing wrong or bad about going to talk to someone. There may be times in your life where it seems like there is nowhere left to turn. Know that it’s ok to ask for help. We can’t always do things on our own and that’s ok. It’s what makes us human. There are a lot of things to look forward to in life and we can’t let ourselves get so caught up in thinking about the past that we miss the present.

One thought on “It’s the Climb

  1. Thank you for sharing & please continue to share and be aware of how your players are doing. My daughter is a junior at SLUWLAX program – great grades happy life but I always try to listen and gauge how she is really feeling. She is a great listener & keeps her teammates mental health in mind. Being a student athlete is twice as hard and it is a balancing act to succeed. Glad all is going so well

    Like

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