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Shelby Reaugh: Happy to Be Here

TW: Suicide attempt/self-harm

Shelby playing hockey

Ever since I started playing hockey at 13, I have never stopped learning and looking for ways to improve, being a bit of a perfectionist also proved to help on the ice and in the classroom. But with my perfectionism, came struggles with self-worth.

When I reached high school, I played travel hockey on one of the only girl's hockey teams in my area, which required me to travel far distances in the car most weekends to play other teams. When it came time for college, I was graciously recruited to play for Becker College, playing at this level was so eye-opening, coming from a team where no one else wanted to play college, it was so encouraging to finally be on a competitive team. 

However, moving 12 hours from home, the pandemic of 2020, and then the closure of Becker College created unprecedented adversity in my relationship with myself and my sport.

My sophomore year I remember so many times being on the ice before practice started and just looking down, holding back tears, thinking I was not good enough to be there, and that I didn't deserve to be on this team. The constant thoughts and feelings of the team being better off without me, along with incessant performance anxiety, led me to cry most drives home after games and practices. My chest always felt heavy, my hands and legs would shake, I would have terrible headaches, and crying spells lasting for hours. Despite the emotional toll, I was performing well enough in school, scoring goals, and playing in games, yet my brain was always finding ways to tell myself I didn't belong and shouldn’t be here. I was constantly beating myself up for how I was handling this heavy sadness. 

Shelby before a hockey game in her uniform

Everyone always says “It is okay to not be okay”, but dealing with not being okay seemed so overwhelming and terrifying, opening up and admitting I needed help felt like the end of the world. No one wants to be judged for their worst days and playing your sport with depression and anxiety was proving to be too much. I eventually decided to punish myself for these thoughts and started to self-harm on those very bad days, and I continued to spiral. In the late spring of my sophomore year, I attempted to commit suicide. Guilty and ashamed, I went to my teammate’s house and eventually to my coach to get the help I needed. This was one of the hardest times, if not the most difficult thing I have ever done. Admitting to my closest friends, teammates, and coach that I had wanted to die and needed help was so frightening, but if I did not reach out for help I would not be here today and finishing out my career with over 100 games played. 

While I am still in therapy weekly, I take medication every day, have learned many coping skills, and have an amazing support system; some days are definitely harder than others but I am so happy to be here. Learning to ask for help, and continuing to lean into self-compassion is something I think has changed my life and allowed me to continue to play my sport.

Shelby and two teammates holding a trophy

Now, after playing in my last collegiate game and becoming a 3-time ECHA champion with my team, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the unwavering support of my teammates. They will always be my family; they were my foundation of strength during the darkest moments. From lending a listening ear after a tough game to cheering me on during the most grueling practices, their presence made all the difference. Each fist bump after a challenging drill, every shared victory, and every moment of camaraderie reminded me that I was never alone. Together, we faced adversity head-on, emerging stronger and more resilient than ever before. As I hang up my skates after my final collegiate game, I carry with me the lessons learned, the friendships forged, and the countless memories shared on and off the ice. While my competitive hockey days may be over, the bonds formed with my teammates will endure a lifetime. They were my rays of sunshine during the storm, and I am eternally grateful for their loving support. 

To anyone reading this who may be struggling, know that you are not alone. Reaching out for help, leaning on your teammates for support, and taking time off from your sport does not make you weak. It may be one of the hardest things you do, and it may take time, but things do get better and it's okay to not be okay. You are needed, you are valued, and you are never alone.

Team photo



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