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Mckenna Braegelmann: The Words I Wish I’d Heard

TW: eating disorder, suicidal ideation


I owe the sport of softball a lot, it has given me my best friends, my closest family and it landed me a pretty cool scholarship playing college softball in the beautiful city of San Diego. It has given me everything yet at the same time it has taken almost everything from me… even my life, on more than one occasion.


Throughout the years I have battled numerous mental illnesses. I suffer from PTSD, anxiety, depression, bulimia/anorexia, and suicidal ideation. None of this has been easy, but the most common feelings associated with all these illnesses are fear and loneliness. At the beginning, I had never felt more alone. I felt isolated from everyone in my life and felt that I had to hide this side of myself because no one would understand the pain I was in. I put on a face, the “ I’m fine” face, I attempted to be the light in everyone's life so no one would feel the same way as I did. I struggled silently for a long time when I did not have to. I wish someone would have told me that.


I wish someone had told the scared, 14-year-old me who had just been hospitalized for a skull fracture and brain bleed after taking a line drive to the head that she would be okay, instead of being told that she could die.


At 16 years old, I developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I would suffer panic attacks while pitching. Flashbacks constantly filled my brain, and I was so afraid to pitch and to get hit again that I developed the yips. I could not throw a strike to save my life.


I wish I did not hear the words I had to ‘get over it’, or that I was ‘overreacting’ and being way too dramatic’. I wish no one told me that I was selfish for crying, or that if I kept that up I would not be successful at the next level.


I wish someone would have told me that developing PTSD and reacting to my triggers was not a choice. I wish someone told me it was okay to feel my emotions, it was okay to cry, it was okay to be afraid, to feel unsafe and more importantly it was okay to not be okay.


At 18 years old, I went to college, and got diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, I was afraid to use my voice, so I stayed silent. I was afraid to talk to groups of people, and since I was afraid to speak, my voice sounded shaky when I would. I would replay what I was going to say over and over in my head so that I did not embarrass myself by saying the wrong thing. I had a drive to be perfect, a drive to never make mistakes, to get perfect grades, to be great athlete, the best daughter and an amazing friend. In my head, failure was unacceptable.


I wish someone told me that in a game of failure, and in life, it was okay to make mistakes, mistakes allowed for growth, that they would make me a better person and player.


I also wish someone had told me that it was okay to explore taking medication, that relying on medicine does not make you weak or that something is wrong with you.


At 19 years old, I started losing weight and fast. I had suffered from disordered eating in the past but nothing like this. The fall of my sophomore year, I had lost 30 pounds. I began restricting what I ate, started to lose energy, became weak and as a result tore a ligament in my arm that prevented me from pitching. I had a horrible relationship with food. I was afraid to gain weight. I would refuse to eat and on numerous occasions my roommate would sit in front of me at 11 pm at night and force me to eat something knowing that I had not eaten at all that day, this would usually end in me crying because I could not get myself to eat. I could not eat out at restaurants because I would look at the menu and start crying because I was so overwhelmed.


I wish I knew that I did not have to be living life this way. I wish someone would have told me that my value was not tied to how much I weighed or what I looked like. I wish someone told me that being strong was more than okay. I wish someone told me that relapses do happen and it does not mean you failed at recovery.


At 19 years old, I got diagnosed with severe depression. I wish I had known that one moment you could feel perfectly okay and the next you could stop feeling entirely and have zero control over it. That no matter how “good” life may appear on the outside, internally it could still feel like the world is ending. That it was possible to feel so alone even when you were surrounded by people who love and care about you.


At 19 years old, I wanted to end my life. I became so tired, so exhausted of fighting all these battles. In order to escape this life I thought my only way out was to be done entirely. I had felt like a burden, that I was making my closest friends and family more miserable.


However,


I am grateful that my college coach was there in my lowest moment while I cried and told her I wanted to end my life. I am grateful for the teammates who watched this moment happen and cried for me and never took their eyes off of me.


I am grateful for the humans that allowed me to cry, that allowed me to be broken and still loved me anyways despite everything.


I am grateful that I had a coach tell me that I could be afraid and still do it anyway. I am grateful I found teammates and coaches who believed in my recovery and supported me every step of the way. I am grateful someone told me it was okay to put myself first, it was okay to be selfish in my recovery.


I am grateful that someone told me that its okay to be a deep feeling person. These people who experience such deep lows have the ability to experience much higher highs, and to keep striving for those.


At 20 years old, I took my life back, I spoke up, I used my voice, I shared my story. I am living proof that no matter how dark life gets you can always recover. I still sometimes hide my feelings, I still struggle with all these illnesses. I still sometimes put on a face and that’s okay some days are better than others. I continue to strive everyday to make sure others do not feel the same way I did.


Of course there will always be words that I wish I had heard, however the words I did hear saved my life and for that I am always grateful and I say these words to you in case you may need to hear them too.


To everyone fighting a battle that no one knows about, you are strong, you are loved, you are worthy. Keep fighting.


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