My name is Kyle Simmonds and I am one of the interns for Alston for Athletes. I’ll be working mostly on blogging. So, the best way for you guys to know me is for me to start by blogging on my own journey.
Like most athletes, I started at a young age. As far back as I can remember I had a whiffle bat or a soccer ball to play with. My parents tried to see what sport I was best at, and to keep me active. I ended up taking up both soccer and baseball and later took up football.
For many, mental health in sports is not something that’s talked about until you hit high school. For me, that’s exactly around when it started.
I have three older sisters, two of which played college softball, one at Dayton and one at Ohio Dominican. They were in college during my high-school years. So I was able to see how sports impacted them
I got a close up view of how mental health can truly impact your athletic career. During my sister's junior season she was raped. I saw the harsh reality of this tragedy and slowly adapting how she was handling it opened my eyes as a freshman in high-school. The damage it did to her and how it impacted the rest of her career was hard to watch as a brother.
A few years down the road I saw my sister play at Ohio Dominican. It was then that she opened up to my family about how she was struggling and needed to get help. This was one of the hardest for me to comprehend. Why struggle when there is nothing wrong. At the time I was close with my sister Maria and it was hard to conceptualize a mental health wound versus a visible wound like a broken bone.
My eyes were opened more when my oldest sister who did not play sports was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. At this point in time, 2/4 of us kids were clinically diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
I had struggled before with mental health due to a classmate losing their battle with depression, but had helped myself by making sure others were ok. I later tore my ACL, MCL and Meniscus my senior year of high-school in an all star game. It did not impact me too harshly as injuries come and go but it was another brick in my bag. After losing another friend my freshman year of college my position coach pushed me to attend at least one therapy session. After a few sessions my therapist and I agreed to try and have me graduate from therapy for the time being.
After 15 months in June of 2019 I was finally cleared to play again , after four days of being full go I felt a rip in my knee (unaware it was probably my ACL). Looking back, this was the moment when everything started crashing, although I was not fully aware at the time. My playing ability started to plummet, which was eventually acknowledged by the coaches in my end of the season interview.
I was told my knee was fixed, yet it was not cooperating, and I started to get mad, and blame it on myself. All the while, I had no clue my ACL was torn. As the season went on, I struggled more and more with the anxiety eating away at me. The sport I loved was slowly becoming the thing I hated most. I started therapy which helped, but the bleeding was too much.
After a month of therapy, I was sent home after falling into a crevasse of despair and suicidal thoughts. After talking with countless social workers, therapists, and doctors we eventually created my recovery plan. I took two weeks off from football and was prescribed Lexapro. The first month of the medication was the hardest of all, due to all the hoops I felt I was jumping through. I felt like I had 1-2 good days a week, and the rest of the time it was as if I was on autopilot. I felt numb to the point of hurting myself just to try and feel something. Even when I got back to practice, I had no regard for my body, and tried to hit guys as hard as I could just so I could feel.
After holding on to those 1-2 days a week of hope the good days finally started to outweigh the bad and the numb. As I started to feel like a better version of me, I was told I played that whole season with a torn ACL. As I was then told I might as well quit or transfer as I would never play again buried me even more. I was not ready to leave the sport I had just re-found my love for. I kept trying to push, and developed a “prove them wrong” attitude. It took until I was two months’ post op to realize it was best to leave the sport I loved for my health.
As an athlete no practice or game can prepare you for the day that you are done with your sport. You struggle to find a reason to be in shape and you truly wish you had just one more play. You feel like you have not as much meaning anymore. We are used to positive feedback. When I left sports I started to miss the accomplishments as a team or by myself whether it was getting a successful drive to score or maybe I had a good block on a guy. You have to train your mind to find wins in your everyday life.
The best advice I got through this all was from my therapist, who told me that mental health is a spectrum. We have good and bad days but we cannot deny the major role that mental health plays in our lives. To find help or someone to find refuge in, and to absolutely not stop the conversation of it. Opening up about your story no matter the severity. You may feel in the darkness but your story may be a light for another to get help. We as athletes must create a team where we cheer each other on and help each other up when we feel down.