“I thought how unpleasant it was to be locked out, and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in.”
That is a quote from Virginia Woolf’s, A Room of One’s Own. I however did not find it there, I read it from a suicide letter written by Madison Holleran, a student and track runner from University of Pennsylvania who jumped to her death January 17th, 2014.
I found the article on Facebook, one of my friends shared the article titled Mental health issues a huge challenge for NCAA in regard to student-athletes. I couldn’t tear my eyes off the article because I found myself relating to Madison more than I thought possible. I felt for her and all the other athletes or just students that suffer every day with mental disorders like depression, anorexia, bulimia, and so many more. Students and student-athletes are expected to amaze in college. You are expected to go to class, eat 3 meals a day, be engaged in all your courses, go to practice, meet people, pass all your tests, and still have a social life. I have never met anyone at my school that has succeeded in all of that, because it’s impossible. Taking more responsibility on as you go through school, totally understandable. But forcing yourself to be the best at everything is just unrealistic. You are setting yourself up for failure.
I am incredibly lucky to have a great coaching staff and friends around me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have struggles. It’s hard to do well in class, while working out and practicing everyday, it’s really hard. Then, lets add-on the fact that with working out comes weight gain. I don’t know about anyone else but as much as I enjoy volleyball and my team, sometimes the hardest thing for me to do is bite the bullet and step on that fucking scale. It’s scary. I haven’t self-harmed in years and it’s hard, I can’t imagine how people who are actively struggling with eating disorders can handle that.
Sidenote: I am so over people saying “wow you don’t look like you would/did/can have an eating disorder/be depressed”
OK. So why don’t you explain to me what eating disorders and depression look like since you clearly have WAY more experience with it than me. If a friend ever confides in you, do not, I repeat do not say that.
But back to what I was saying about Madison. There is so much pressure put on students, and even more so on athletes. Once you start college you have to make a few very important decisions and it roughly comes down to this, what do you want? Do you want to make a lot of friends? Do you want to get good grades? Do you want to sleep for 8 hours every night (good luck)? Do you want to stay sane? You can’t have everything and I think it is extremely hard to figure out what you want/need in your life.
I’m not perfect, and I’m taking things one step at a time. Some days it’s hard to stay sane when I’m feeling like I physically and mentally cannot keep up with everything that is going on, but I have to believe I can. Even if that means I have to step away from things that I love to give myself space to breath, I’ll do it. The idea that student-athletes have to be at their best every single day is not only unfair, but hurtful to their mental stability. I like volleyball, I like school, and I like having my friends, but I will always choose my health over any of those things.
If you’re feeling “locked in”, talk to someone. I wish I would have in high school, I wish I would have asked for help directly. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’re fine and that what you’re feeling isn’t a big deal. But your feelings are always valid, don’t let anyone, whether it be coaches, parents, friends or teachers tell you that what you’re feeling isn’t important, because it is. You are incredibly important and your feelings matter. Don’t try to shove them aside, because shoving the problems aside doesn’t make you stronger. All it does is slowly break you down. Being broken isn’t pretty or romantic, it’s terrible and dangerous. You don’t have to be locked in anymore.
Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if my life was cut short like Madison’s. I don’t know what my family would be like with me gone, or my friends, or even people who I rarely spoke to. But with all the confidence in the world I can say Madison’s death affected people all over. I never knew her, but in a crazy way I feel like I did. I hope that wherever she is, she is happy and no longer feels locked in.
Suicide Prevention Hotline– 1 (800) 273-8255