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  • Writer's pictureKaliya Johnson

Kaliya: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I'm okay

I’m not okay...

I am NOT okay.

It has taken me years to get to this point where I’m comfortable saying this out loud. That’s if you even consider this being out loud. For a long time I was lying to myself and everyone around me. It wasn’t because I was scared of what people might think. It was because I didn’t understand what was happening. I didn’t understand where to even begin. But now, years later, I can somewhat understand. For a long time I considered writing a book about my depression and anxiety and having to learn to live with it.

Yes, I said live with it. If you don’t live with it, then you don’t live at all.

During my time at Boston College there were moments where I didn’t live. My depression and anxiety consumed me. I couldn’t even begin to tell you the number of times that I cried myself to sleep for no reason at all. Days where I didn’t eat because I just couldn’t get out of bed to get food. But why? I had it all. I had a family who loved and supported me, friends that wanted best for me, a full ride scholarship to play Ice hockey for one of the best teams in the nation. But yet, here I was crying myself to sleep every night not remembering why or how I even got to that point.

As a student-athlete there’s this stigmatism around you that you’ve got it all together.

That because you play a division 1 sport, go to class full time, and somehow manage to have a social life you have all you could have ever imagined. Your perception of me was not my reality and for a long time I did a great job, like many others, help you believe that perception was real. Often times people forget that athletes at all levels are people. That there is more to us than the sport we love and dedicate our lives to.

My sophomore year was the year that my smile finally started to crack. I was no longer the smiling and energetic Kaliya that everyone thought I was. Kaliya who lived with depression and anxiety was here, and she was here to stay for good this time. I remember the first time it hit me where I couldn’t hide it. We were about to leave for a 2 game road trip to Maine and I walked into my trainers office and said somethings wrong. I don’t feel like myself, I’m sad all the time, and I think I might do something. Quickly I stopped and corrected myself. “I mean I feel like I want to but I know I won’t actually do it”. (Later I would learn that this was referred to as suicidal ideation). Then I finally looked up and I could see the worry on his face. The look that I vowed to never allow someone to look at me that way. The look of ‘you said suicide, now I have to watch your every move’. You see, I didn’t want to be babied or have someone constantly worried about me. I was and am a very independent person. It’s just not who I am. I am strong and can handle anything that life throws at me.

But this, this I couldn’t handle on my own.

I didn't know what was coming next, but I went along with it anyway. I was immediately given the number for the on call emergency therapist. We talked on the phone for hours and I was finally able to say out loud how I had been feeling for so long. It wasn’t easy, but talking to a complete stranger helped. Something about someone who knew nothing about me and who I was “supposed” to be gave me comfort. She would then go on and explain to me that I wasn’t alone and that she was proud of me for seeking help. She was doing great until she told me I shouldn’t travel to our away series the following day. I had immediately felt scared, then anger, and finally betrayal. I came here to play hockey, that’s my job. I can’t just not do my job because I don’t feel well. So therefore when I went back to my sports trainer I said I’m good, I feel a lot better. Thank you.

But I wasn’t.

In fact, I can’t tell you one single thing that happened from that weekend. I couldn’t tell you who my roommate was, what I ate, how I played, who I played with. Nothing. As soon as I woke up the next day in Maine I realized I had to go do my job and that was the last thing I wanted to do. My depression had hit an all time low. I fell numb for week and didn’t know what was going on. My crying myself to sleep every once and a while would become an everyday thing. I had never felt so alone and scared. Not knowing how to get help or that it was okay to get help is the reason I have decided to share my story. I choose to share my story so no other person has to feel like I did. I want people to know that it’s okay to talk about your feelings, and that 1 in 5 people experience mental health.

Did you know that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24?
That African Americans and Hispanic Americans each use mental health services at about one-half the rate of Caucasian Americans?
In America nearly 50% of youth aged 8-15 didn’t receive mental health services in the previous years. Nearly 60% for adults.

Something has got to change!

So by sharing my story I hope inspire you in any way.

Whether that’s talking about your mental with friends and family.

Choosing to get help in whatever way is best for you.

You checking in and making sure that friend you’ve been worried about is actually doing okay like they say they are.

Or just simply making it known to family and friends that you are available to talk if they need someone to listen or a shoulder to cry on.

To my family and friends who have been on this very long journey with me, thank you. I thank you for your understanding, your patience, your love, and for holding me up when I couldn’t stand on my own two feet.

I can never repay any of you back for all you’ve done, but I will promise you this. I promise to get help when I need it, speak up when I don’t want to at all, and to live my life to the fullest. My depression and anxiety does not define me and who I am, thank you for helping me see that for myself.

I love you and God Bless

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