Out of Retrograde: A Mental Health Story (Part 1)

Updated: May 25, 2021

TW: Self-Harm, Suicide

Growing up I was always the reliable one. The strong one. The loyal one. The best at whatever I was doing. You get the idea. You had a problem? Needed someone to talk to? “Oh, Raven’s got it.” I played competitive sports for most of my life and on every team I was regarded as one of the best. School? Easy. I graduated with honors from every school I attended and could probably count on one hand the amount of times I actually sat down to study for anything. On the outside it looked like everything was a breeze and when commented on I’d just laugh and shrug. But the reality was that with everything I was doing, I was putting so much pressure on myself to live up to these expectations that started developing from everyone I knew. This, coupled with some traumatic life experiences, and my “put together” exterior was starting to slowly crack. When something cracks just enough, it crumbles.

In 2016, the day after graduating with my master's degree (again, with honors), I hopped on a plane to Europe to play professional softball. Aside from it being an absolute dream, it was also an escape. I was going through some shit and moving halfway across the world allowed me to get away from it all in a sense. That’s exactly what it was too. I had a blast and for the first time in a while I really felt happy and at peace. So much so that I stayed for another season. I never wanted to leave. I was happy and that’s all that mattered.

Unfortunately, it really doesn’t matter where you are in the world. You’re always going to have shit thrown at you. I got a really bad concussion that created a world of problems, and in my heart I knew my time as an athlete was done. And on top of that, someone really close to me ended up killing himself. The reality of being halfway across the world and not being able to go home and grieve hit hard. He was a really important part of my life and it felt like a part of me died with him. I wasn’t allowed to be sad. I was still in season and that had to be my focus. That’s what I was getting paid to do. So, I finished out the last part of my athletic career numb to the world.

Coming back home was an adjustment, but it was fine. Or so I thought. I realized early on last year that something wasn’t right with me. I was getting short with people and not answering texts for days to the point friends thought I died. Things that came easy weren’t easy anymore and I was carrying around a heaviness that I had never felt prior. I wasn’t feeling great and I didn’t know how to make it go away and I wasn’t used to that. I always had a solution to everything. I couldn’t listen to music. Listening to my favorite bands were now triggering and would make me upset. I had crippling anxiety about seeing people because I knew I didn’t look quite right. I was hurting myself every day, sometimes multiple times a day. At shows I’d avoid friends to the point they thought I was mad at them when in reality that wasn’t the case at all. I was embarrassed because I knew I wasn’t acting like myself and it was very apparent. I felt like I was failing at everything I was doing and was losing control of every aspect of my life and I didn’t know what to do.

The thought of ending everything crossed my mind quite a bit, actually every day. All day, every day. With every day I was experiencing this mental hell I didn’t realize that I was slowly planning a world without me. I knew how I’d do it. I knew what to say to each friend and who got what. Same with family. Everything was put into place and with every bad day I was inching closer and closer to the edge. Until one day, I got there. And I jumped off.

It wasn’t some grand situation like what you see in movies or television. It wasn’t any of that. I don’t know what happened, but I hit the ground. Hard. Like when you fall in a dream and snap yourself awake, that’s what happened. I didn’t tell anyone. No one was even home anyways. I didn’t tell friends. I thought because I wasn’t successful then it didn’t matter. No one needed to know, but they did. Imagine if I flew instead, then what? They would’ve obviously known, so did they need to know about this? Absolutely. As hard as it is vocalizing that you tried, you were unsuccessful and that you needed real help, it was important to tell someone.

I’d like to think I’m doing better. It’s still really hard sometimes to navigate my mental health and vocalize when I’m not feeling so great, and the pandemic frankly isn’t helping. But I know a lot of people are struggling with that too. I’m much more aware of what I’m feeling and what I need to do when things get bad. I started going to therapy. I go for walks. I’ve gotten better at reaching out to people when I need to talk things out. And I try to remember that when things get really bad and those thoughts start creeping into my brain, it’s not the reality and I’ll eventually get through it.

For those who have tried and are still here, I’m with you. For the ones that have been left behind by people who were successful, I’m also with you. Being on both sides, I completely understand wanting the pain to stop. Unfortunately, when one pain ends, another starts for those who grieve your loss. I’m not trying to sound preachy and I’m sure we’ve all heard every phrase in the book to get us to stay, I’m just here to say I completely understand and that you’re not alone. Please know that your life matters. YOU matter. Might not feel like it sometimes, and with the weight of 2020 slowly pushing us down things can seem really impossible right now. Believe me, I know. But we’ll get through this. We’ll get through every single day, and if we need to rely on others to help us that’s completely okay. We’re all going through life together and all need understand that people are going to have a hard time. Be kind to each other, and pick people up so we can all cross the finish line that’s life.