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Bre Hawkins: Finding Strength Through Others’ Stories

TW: mentions of self-harm

Around a year ago, I began experiencing intense physical symptoms before and during softball games. What started off as sleepless nights and shaky hands, quickly turned into chest pain and constant headaches. All of these symptoms were stemming from performance anxiety.

During games, I would try my best to hide the physical symptoms I was dealing with and push through. I wanted to be a good teammate, and not let others see my struggles, but the stress of having to always be in “game mode” while silently fighting an internal battle only amplified my symptoms. 

My mental health continued to worsen and I found myself getting physically sick on game days due to the anxiety. Being sick and extremely anxious all the time led my performance on the field to suffer.

I felt incredibly alone and isolated, I didn’t reach out to anyone around me for help. I wanted to have it all figured out. The idea that my mental struggles were causing physical symptoms made me feel ashamed.

I thought I just wasn’t tough enough to be an athlete anymore. 

Looking for a “quick fix”, the only thing on my mind that I wanted was for my performances on the field to get better. I just wanted to get back to my old self. 

The urgency for a way to “turn my brain off” eventually led me to self harm. I began hurting myself physically before or between games thinking it would distract me from what I was going through. However, it only made the problem worse. The shame and guilt of the issue intensified, leading me to feel completely incapable of playing on the field. I eventually found myself having panic attacks in the dugout. 

As I continued to struggle, I began to see more athletes speak up and share their own stories. It might seem trivial, but knowing I wasn’t the only one experiencing performance anxiety completely changed my perspective. The strength of reading their stories led me to open up to a coach I trusted, and felt like it lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders. I finally felt like I was able to breathe. 

Thanks to those brave athletes who spoke up, I was able to learn healthy coping mechanisms to work through my performance anxiety. I began journaling and meditating before games, and continue utilizing these practices everyday outside of sports, to help me with my anxiety and fear. 

Sharing my story is something I never imagined I would do. As a highschool senior I know my softball career will soon be coming to an end, but I chose to share this story as a vow to myself that I would do my part to leave sports a better place than I found them. I hope someone can benefit from my story as much as I did from the stories of others.


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