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Jackie Skalski: Trust Your Own Process

“It could be worse,” is the response I constantly gave when asked about how I felt when I heard the news that I had torn my ACL.

But in reality, it is okay to feel like it cannot be worse, but is not okay to feel like that for an extended period of time.

I decided to “give myself a day,” a day where I could feel nothing but sorry for myself. But after this day, it was “Go Time”, it was time to start my journey back to the court.  

In February of 2021, it only took one second, and one wrong step for me to lose my everything—basketball. Putting it into perspective, I was just five days away from my first college basketball game when it had been taken from me right under my own two feet. I remember sitting on the ground after it had happened and just knowing something was seriously wrong. It would not be for a week after this when the worst-case scenario was confirmed: I had torn my left ACL.

The woman I was then was nowhere near ready for what was about to come. I just remember it all happened so fast. Whether it was the several appointments I had or going right into surgery, I was not ready for the mental affects it was going to have—but is anyone ever ready for their mental health to decrease? 

I was told over and over again to “Trust the Process,” but sometimes it was hard to do that when I felt like the process was not giving me any results. Those three words taught me so much more about life than anything ever has. The process only works if you put in the work. So, the hours of rehab a day, taking care of my mental health was all a part of the process, just like the highs and lows of life. 

Growing up, I never faced mental health issues and I always had a basketball in my hand. Well, that changed after my surgery. Not being able to be out there on the court with team, let alone not being able to walk for several weeks, does a lot to a person. I just remember feeling worthless and irrelevant, because to me, my whole purpose in life was basketball, so when I did not have that, I felt like I did not have a purpose. 

It was through the months of rehab, the months of watching from the sidelines, and the months of wanting more and more for myself that I re-found my purpose and re-found who I was and what I wanted in life. It was through this that I learned that it was okay not to be okay. 

Once I realized that I really was not okay, I knew I had to do something about it. I went to my coach, crying before I could even speak, and asked for help. Her suggestion was therapy, but the person I am and the stigma behind athletes going to therapy, it was the last thing I wanted to do—but had I not gone to therapy, I do not think I would’ve gotten through the darkness that was taking over my life. 

When I was unable to walk or carry things on my own, I had no choice but to rely on other people. But I did have the choice to rely on these people for mental stability and I think that is one of the most important lessons I learned from my recovery; to lean on the people around you until you can stand on your own two feet. Had it not been for my teammates, coaches, and athletic trainers, and most importantly my parents; I would have never been able to actually get up. 

Once I started getting up and going through my darkness, I started to see the light at the end of the long, (and I mean very long), recovery that comes from ACL surgery—the process was starting to make sense. But something I think is very important to remind myself every day is the work it took to get to the light and the work it took to keep going. Although it may seem so minor or the same thing over and over again, consistency is what will bring you through the lowest points and turn them into the highest. 

If you had told me that tearing my ACL would be the best thing that ever happened to me, I would have laughed in your face and probably said some other thing, too. But the reality is, it did cause my lowest points, but the highs were then worth so much more. 

As I remind myself every day, it is okay not to be okay, it is also okay to need help, it is okay to go to therapy, it is okay to lean on other people, it is okay to feel sorry for yourself—but not forever. I also remember how important it is to put your mental health first over everything in your life. Sometimes it takes a serious injury to realize that. 

So yes, my life could have been a lot worse, but to the person I was back then, it really couldn’t have been. I couldn’t control what happened to me, but I could and did control how I responded to it and how I continue to respond to it. If I learned one thing it is that the tears, the bad days, and the lows don’t make you weak, they make you the strongest version of yourself—if you let them. And, always remember to Trust the Process. 

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