My name is Olivia Duarte, and for as long as I can remember I have loved the game of lacrosse. The first semester of my senior year in college, that changed. I spent hours on the phone with my Mom telling her I hated lacrosse and wanted to quit.
My mom being the incredible person she is, knew this didn’t sound like the healthiest version of me. It was my depression talking… more like it was my depression screaming. my life became an all-consuming feeling of anxiety and depression. The simple act of getting out of bed was harder some days than a full practice.
I was at a place where my depression became all that I was. The sport I once loved became something I couldn’t bear to think about and that was a terrifying thing.
Being an athlete, I was paralyzed by the thought of coming forward. My biggest fear was being seen as weak or as an athlete who wasn’t mentally tough… as someone who was not cut out for the pressures of a high-level competitive environment.
This fear took precedence over my well-being and consumed my life. I would have rather suffered in silence than be honest about the state of my mental health. I got to the point where I couldn’t even imagine getting back on the field. I wanted something to happen so I wouldn’t have to make a choice.
This is when I started to tell people: my coach, my academic advisor, my teammates. With each person I told, a small portion of the weight I was feeling was lifted from my shoulders. I took a mental health leave from lacrosse. I went home and took my classes remotely.
I removed myself from a toxic environment where I felt as though being depressed and anxious was a serious deficiency. It was an unacceptable sign of weakness. While I was home, I continued therapy, talked to a sports psychologist, and began the process of healing.
I returned in my spring semester ready to go. I got on the field and fell in love with my sport again. I found success in a new position and cried when our last game ended. I’m taking my 5th year at Lindenwood University and I could not be more excited or more ready.
I fell back in love with lacrosse because I found the space to heal my mind first. I spoke up, which I know firsthand is so difficult to do.
I just hope my story helps someone in need.