Suicide Awareness Month (September) - My Story
After losing my friend, Neena, last year, I've felt compelled to share my story and journey with mental health. She was everything that embodied the "perfect person". She was my friend, my former teammate, and she became my sister. I miss her every day and, in her honor, I'd like to share my story- in hopes that you, too, will share and that we can break the stigma on mental health together. So, without further ado, here we go...
I've battled with depression for 12 years now. These past few years have been better than the rest, but let's start from the beginning.
In high school I was everything you would think and expect a star athlete to be. I was "popular", breaking records, winning games, and "living my best life". Outwardly, that's exactly what it looked like, but inwardly was another story. My mind was a prison, and I didn't know how to break free of it. I felt so alone even though I was constantly surrounded by people. I felt so low even though I always had a smile on my face. I felt unloved even though my people always showed love. I was supposed to be happy because I was "on top of the world", but my mind wouldn't allow me to. When I hit senior year of high school, I was extremely low. I was partying a lot, having mental breakdowns daily, skipping school, skipping practice, and not really caring about anything or anyone. As the days went by, each day became harder and harder. I thought about suicide multiple times and some people saw through my happy facade, Neena's mom being one of them, she was my coach and put me in contact with a therapist. But it wasn't enough at the time because I didn't want help, I was okay being in my own misery. So, I made the ultimate decision at 17 years old and attempted to take my own life- alone, in my bathroom. It didn't work (obviously as I sit here writing this right now) and I woke up the next morning. I was in shock, scared of my own actions, and vowed to myself to never do that ever again.
I didn't attempt again- but the next two years of my life were close enough. I was still Taylor Emery, the "Basketball Star". I was breaking records, racking up awards, basking in popularity, but my depression stayed at an all-time high. As a result, I engaged in high-risk behaviors. I indulged in drugs and alcohol, I would drive at extremely high speeds on back roads in the middle of the night, and I didn't care about my life at all. I remember my parents would make comments saying, "what if you die" in a joking way and I'd answer, "If it's my time, it's my time" and laugh. It was a scary time. I wouldn't seek help. I didn't feel like I needed it and thought I could handle everything on my own.
Fast forward through the next 4 years of my life and I stopped engaging in reckless behaviors, but this is where the depression hit a rollercoaster. I don't know what happened, but it's like all the "care" I was lacking for the past 2 years just came back in full force and all I cared about was basketball. So much so, that I equivalated my self- worth to my performance. Hence, the rollercoaster. If I had a good game, I was at an all-time high, but if I had a bad game, I was at an all-time low. I could never stay consistent with my emotions. My mind was a mess. I fixated on accolades and going pro. It was like my way of protecting myself from what could happen if I didn't have something to focus on that distracted me all the time. I turned down time with my teammates to be in the gym- I turned down everything to be in the gym. Overworking myself until I could get to where I thought I had "achieved enough". Which, not surprising, nothing was ever enough for me. I tried going pro. I went to the WNBA, I went overseas, and then something flipped in me. I realized this wasn't the life I wanted to live. Constantly chasing accolades and constantly having the image of my own self-worth wavering.
So, I quit.
I've been at a level of peace and happiness since- a level that I didn't think I'd ever be able to achieve with my depression. I found my own voice, my confidence, and my happiness. I'm doing things I love every day and I'm choosing myself each morning. I'm choosing to have a good day and to spread love. When I lost Neena last year, I wavered- my depression came back full force, my mind almost took me under, and I felt as if I was being pulled underwater by a weighted vest. I was gasping for air, trying to grab ahold of something to keep me afloat. I was angry, sad, and felt so much guilt. I was very close to admitting myself into a mental institution to help me get back on track. I decided to try therapy first and that actually did help me. It helped me evaluate my emotions and figure out how to feel them without it suffocating me. I was doing great, even after my therapist quit the profession all together and gave me a week's notice...
Anyway, since overcoming that point in my life, I've decided to "be like Neena". She was so big on spreading love, joy, making people feel welcomed/ loved, and always giving back. I've been trying to embody that, and her, since.
I hope some of you can resonate with my story and know that there is a light at the end of every tunnel. If you struggle with mental health, please do not hesitate to get help. The world is so much better with you HERE. I promise, your life is worth it.