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Erin Drebushenko: Learning How to Take Back Control

TW: suicidal ideation


Senior year is supposed to be worry free and filled with memories to carry us through our journeys into the real world; yet this year, I found myself constantly paralyzed by anxiety throughout the fall semester. A fun and finally relaxing summer allowed me to train the hardest I ever have for my upcoming track season. I was lifting more than I ever have, doing more cardio than I’ve ever done, and even completed a grueling hike through Watkins Glen after having Covid for the first time. Everything seemed like it was perfect and I felt like I was where I was supposed to be, and I was excited to go back to school and be surrounded by my family away from home.


But when I got back to school, something changed. Friendships I once thought would last forever began to dwindle, discussions about life after graduation were abundant, and I felt worthless and belittled by everyone around me. I became anxious about everything in my life; going to classes, going to lifts and practices that used to feel like the safest spaces, even just going to eat in the dining hall. Everything made me sick and all I wanted to do was stay in bed and sleep. It hit me the hardest before fall break; the entire week, I had no energy, I was nauseous, dizzy, lightheaded, and to make matters worse, every time I tried to eat, I felt like I needed a nap and became even more sick than before. For weeks, I struggled to even get out of bed; I feared that as soon as I stood up, I would be sick or pass out and embarrass myself to death. As a type 1 diabetic, I assumed it was a simple health issue, probably just my thyroid again, nothing to worry about. My doctors ordered extensive bloodwork to check hormones and blood glucose levels, but everything came back normal, big surprise, right? After being home for a few days, I realized that I had let my anxiety take control of my life and I needed to find a way to take it back.


The first thing that convinced me to seek out help actually came from a story one of my teammates explained during our weekly roses and thorns recap at the beginning of practice, and it was the most important thing I have realized over the past few months; I do not need a diagnosis to acknowledge what I have gone through. I’ve had anxious tendencies my entire life and, though I have never attempted, have experienced passive suicidal ideations as a result. It’s been overwhelming to actually admit this out loud not only to myself, but to my therapist and friends as well, but I’m so glad I did. Talking openly about my mental health has helped me see that even though I’ve never been diagnosed with any mental illnesses according to the DSM, I have had experiences that have affected me significantly throughout my life and I do deserve to be heard.


I’ve spent the entire semester working with my therapist and openly discussing what I’m going through with my teammates, coaches, friends, and family, and I’ve been lucky enough to see that they are all extremely supportive of me. One of my favorite mantras is “one more time,” which has helped me persevere through the struggles I’ve endured with my mental health this year. Even when I was scared get out of bed and go to class or to lift, I just had to convince myself to do it one more time, to talk to one more person, to try one more thing to show myself that I had the support to face whatever I was feeling so afraid of. If there’s anything I want people to take away from my story, it’s that your emotions and experiences are always valid, and there is always someone there that is willing to listen and lead you to a larger community.


My family, teammates, and the THO family have all helped me recognize that I have control over my life and helped me learn how to regain it so I can start living and loving my sport and my life again.



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