Kat Palaia: Fighting through adversity

All it takes is one person, one moment, and one story. You have to keep going. It gets better, I promise.

Anxiety and depression have been with me since I was in high school. It was something I learned to keep under the radar and not make a “thing”. I would avoid it at all costs, hide down every alleyway I could if it meant that I didn’t have to deal with it. But once I started college, I soon came to realize that once you run from something long enough it catches up to you.

The fall semester of my freshmen year was not easy. COVID restrictions meant not seeing friends as often as I liked and not having the “normal” college experience. Being in a dorm room alone meant having a lot of time to reflect. When I would sit and reflect on what I wanted my future to look like I couldn’t see anything. My mind when blank. I had a hard time picturing where I would be and who I would become. I felt like I was sinking from all the tears I cried, and no life preserver was going to save me. I realized I needed help. I went to my coach, and I asked her if she could help me get into the counseling center. She did exactly that and within a month I was seeing a therapist once a week for the next couple of months.


Coming into my spring semester of freshmen year I felt “better”. Still a little edge but I had lacrosse to look forward to. Flash forward to the second day of practice, I tear my ACL and I tally on another year of not playing lacrosse to the other two years prior due to COVID. I wasn’t as upset as I thought I was going to be. I took it as an opportunity. An opportunity to get better, stronger, and tougher. A new chapter to my continuous book of life.

Rehab for my knee was not easy by any stretch of the means and anyone who has torn their ACL knows exactly what I am talking about. It becomes a nice reality check as to just how tough you think you are. You learn to dig deep and find purpose. I learned if you dig deep enough you may also find things about yourself that you may not like so much. I found a lot of old wounds that I thought were healed. I opened them right back up. I felt my anxiety and depression start to creep back in and instead of asking for help, I shut down instead. I wouldn’t talk much, and I wouldn’t laugh or smile and if you know me, I am always laughing at something or smiling at someone. But my athletic trainer at the time saw something. What you ask? I don’t really know. I’m sure if he is reading this now, he’s probably smirking because I was a pain in his you know what! But he knew that I had more to give, and I was more than my past. He was the first person who ever looked at me and saw something more. He was someone that I looked up to and knew that I was going to make it and that I was going to be okay. All it takes is ONE PERSON.

Fast track a year later and I get cleared to play. All that hard work will pay off. First game back into the season and I score my first college goal. I was riding a high and I did not plan to get off any time soon. But the funny thing about plans is that they always change. I was dealing with a pain in my hip a couple of weeks into the season and it was not going away. I knew something wasn’t right, but I just had a hard time letting go of lacrosse again. So, I would practice in pain, rehab what I could, and watch games from the sideline. I did the best that I could but deep down inside I knew my spirits were broken a little bit. As the season was winding down, I found out that I had a stress fracture on my femur. Was not what I had expected but crutches and I would become friends for the first half of the summer. I would work out my upper body patiently waiting for the signal that I can start moving around again. Keep going I told myself. It gets better. You can be that person, that story.



But with my injuries happening back-to-back I had a lot of people tell me I should consider doing something else. That I should quit. But I didn’t want to. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that it was a dream of mine to play college lacrosse and to give it up without experiencing it in its entirety just made me want it even more. That doesn’t mean that those voices made it any easier. It was hard. I was in my head a lot. Cried more tears than I thought possible. But all it took was ONE MOMENT. One of my athletic trainers looked at me and said give me a hug. All I thought was if I hug her, I am going to start crying. I did both. I cried in her arms, and she said something that I will never forget. She said, “We are not quitting on you”. It was something I didn’t know I needed to hear. But when I did, I knew I was going to make it and I was going to prove that I was worth it. That my story would mean something to someone.

Everyone has a story and mine is still ongoing with many different chapters and characters. I have learned that the light at the end of the tunnel is just another light to another tunnel. But in that tunnel, you learn what you have to offer to others and yourself. That you are not in the tunnel alone. You have people who care about you and want you to succeed. All it takes is one person, one moment, and one story. That if you keep going it gets better, I promise. You can be that one person, one moment, and ONE STORY to someone else.

Life is hard but not impossible. Change is hard but it will take you far. Pain is tough but you are tougher. Be your own hero and write your own story.


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