“Don’t Forget To Live”

The other day, I found myself giving my boyfriend a serious pep-talk. He was overwhelmed with school, work, illness, and never having enough time for anything. I’m sure many of us can relate. Saddened and disheartened from hearing about his trials, I found myself emotionally breaking down, giving him a pep-talk on how to make the best of life when things aren’t going as planned. Since this talk, I haven’t stopped hearing the echo of my own words in my head, “don’t forget to live.” I think it’s important for all of us to take a second to breathe, and process what I am about to tell you.

Your creator did not put you on this planet to simply suffer and die. Whether you are being overwhelmed with school, money, work, family life, friendships, relationships, whatever it is, you can overcome it.

If you are a student in high school, college, or trade school, undergraduate or graduate, you need to know that no matter how hard you work, you are not defined by your grades. You are much more than a student, you are a person who lives and breathes. Your creator did not put you on this earth for the sole purpose of studying and being miserable. If you’re in school, chances are your creator got you there, and is trying to present you with an opportunity to have a big future. Do your homework and take your exams, but if you turn in something late or get a low grade on a test, it’s not the end of the world. There is life outside of school, and five years from now, it’s really not going to matter what grade you got, so there’s no reason to stress yourself out. Do your best and settle, because you can’t do more than your best.

If you are someone working way too many hours than you feel capable of working, just know that it gets easier. You may feel burnt out, exhausted, and emotional, but every single morning is a chance to start over and begin again. Try to lower your hours, keep a journal, eat a good breakfast, make time for yourself. No matter how busy you may feel, you can’t forget to live.

If you are having trouble with relationships, you needn’t worry. Almost every piece of advice I can give relates to some silly cliche, but they are all too true. If someone loves you enough, they will understand. If you let someone go and it’s meant to be, they’ll come back. You can’t worry about what the other person or party is thinking or doing, all you can do is manage yourself. Do what you think is right, and if they love you enough, they will understand.

Something I heard from a friend was that in the midst of everything, you need to make time for yourself. It’s like those directions they give on airplanes before take-off. In case of cabin pressure failure, the oxygen masks fall down. They always tell you to put yours on first, because you can’t help others if you yourself aren’t getting enough oxygen. This applies to nearly everything in life. Take time to recuperate, recharge, slow down. If you don’t, you won’t be at your best, and you won’t be able to help other people. I stand true to this point still to this day. It doesn’t matter what it looks like in your life, you do what you need to do. People might judge, get mad, or not understand, but it doesn’t matter, it’s not their life, not their mental health. Take a day off work, take a day off school, go for a walk, call up an old friend, lay in bed and watch a movie, get fresh air. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.

Not taking care of yourself is a vicious cycle. Forgetting to live is the biggest mistake you could make. If you don’t remember to slow down, you’ll eventually end up in a world where everything is a blur, and you won’t remember the journey. Take your time and breathe. Life is worth living, but it’s not worth being stressed over insignificant, unimportant, trivial things. Whatever you are going through, I know you can do it. I know you will find a way, and I ask that you don’t forget to take care of yourself along your journey. I’m telling you that of all things to remember, please don’t forget to live.

 

 

 

 

Anxiety

I will never forget that night.

It was one of my first nights as a freshman at Bethel University. I was exuberant, liberated by my new freedom. I was no longer a measly high school student being forced to conform to long schedules and nitpicky dress codes. During Welcome Week, every freshman was placed in small groups, each lead by a “new student mentor”.  On this night, it was the campus wide scavenger hunt. Each group member was supposed to adhere to a different role, a few staying inside to decode clues and direct the scavengers while the others to go out and hunt for the objects. I was having so much fun with my group members, making jokes, getting to know them, laughing at our wrong guesses and the scavengers’ light hearted missteps, and letting loose from the nervous ambiance every freshman radiated. That’s when it hit me.

My chest tightened so hard, as if a Sumo wrestler had sat on my chest. My heart raced faster than I’d ever felt during my hardest hockey game. I began sweating and breathing funny. I could feel adrenaline beginning to drown my body. I had to leave. I didn’t know where I needed to go but I couldn’t stay sitting. I told my group members I had to go to the bathroom and left.

I locked myself into the handicap stall. I legitimately thought I was going to die on the bathroom floor. This is how it’s going to end, this is how I die, I thought to myself, leaning on the wall, sinking to the floor. No other thought came to my mind other than breathing. I didn’t think to call my mom, I didn’t think to yell for help. Finally, after a few minutes, my adrenaline ceased, and my chest lightened up. My heart was slowing down, but still beating quickly. I was absolutely terrified, and finally walked out of the stall to call my mom. I told her I thought I had just had a heart attack and need to get to a hospital. She got ahold of my aunt (who is a nurse), and she explained I might be having something called a panic attack. I didn’t believe her, and through my tears, demanded to be picked up. My mom picked me up and  took me home. She said sleeping in my own bed might help. I was surprised I made it through the night, but I nonetheless awoke.

Everything was okay for a few days. Once the initial terror subsided, it was back to the freshmen festivities. A few days later, the same thing happened. This time, I went in to the Emergency Room. I was all hooked up to heart monitors, had to pee in a cup, was poked and prodded, and after all tests came back perfectly fine, I was diagnosed with having panic attacks and anxiety. I was given medications to take in case another panic attack arose. Irritated, I left the hospital. There was no way what I had felt was nothing other than a “panic attack.” But, it was.

Concerned floor mates and classmates asked what happened and if everything was okay. To my classmates, I made up some flu-type story, afraid of their judgment. I was much more comfortable with my floor mates, and was honest about the panic attacks. To my bewilderment, other girls on my floor had also experienced panic attacks and anxiety! They said it was more common than one might think, and that there was nothing to be ashamed about. I was surprised that this was a common occurrence, but relieved that they understood.

To this day, I still tear up when I talk about my story. It is something I deal with continuously, even after three years. I have learned ways to calm myself down, ways to communicate to loved ones when it happens, and how to avoid situations that generally cause my anxiety levels to rise. While I can’t always avoid it, it is mostly under control.

People with mental illnesses, disorders, or anxieties are not crazy. What they are going through and feeling is real. I thought I was genuinely having a heart attack when I experienced my first panic attack. A “panic attack” is when your body initiates your “fight or flight” system for no apparent reason, and with no way to stop it. Your body cannot maintain that system for long periods of time, eventually allowing the attack to pass. This affects 1 in every 75 people in the world (American Psychological Association).

It is absolutely wrong and uncalled for to belittle someone’s anxiety or panic attack symptoms. While the onset may be psychological, your body is initiating a physical response that can be paralyzing, and can sometimes lead people to commit suicide. Anxiety is absolutely real, and is not something to joke about, use as an excuse, or to not take seriously. Listen to my story and be conscious that while it may not impact you personally, it may impact someone around you or someone you love, and they might not be brave enough to tell you.

 

*If you are someone who struggles with debilitating anxiety or suicidal thoughts, please call:

the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1 (800) 273-8255

A Coach’s Perspective: An Open Letter to the Parents

Dear parent in the crowd,

I am beyond pleased your child decided to join this sport. As a former athlete, nothing makes me smile more than seeing a child on the field or in the arena discovering their love for the game. Even if they decide they don’t like it or it’s not for them, it will still be a learning experience, and I’m happy to walk your child through that journey. Before this season takes off, there are some things I’d like you to know.

The first thing you should know is that I am volunteering. That means I will be scheduling practices and games, getting to know and care for every player on our team, watching players’ skills and fundamentals, and managing a group of exuberant kids, all while keeping an eye on injuries, behaviors, hydration levels, time, and equipment without any pay. If you think being a coach starts and stops on the field or in the arena, you are wrong. I go about my entire day excitedly brainstorming new drills and activities to use in our practice, and reflect nightly on how successful the drills were. I do all of this in addition to going to school and working two jobs, leaving me with little time to wind down. If you ask me why, I can quickly tell you no other job in this world offers me a better pay-off than seeing young people grow as not only players, but develop life skills and teamwork qualities that can carry them throughout life.

The second thing you should know is that coaching isn’t easy. I am not only teaching young people the game, but I am also managing parents and dealing with referees. Sometimes I will give your child a suggestion on how to do a skill differently, only to have to repeat myself dozens of times in order to see a remote change. Sometimes I explain a team strategy, only to see players forget or do the opposite. Parents see the game from the stands, but they don’t always see or hear what I am demonstrating in practice or reiterating during games. Often times, referees will mess up a call, which sometimes affects the entire outcome of the game. Sometimes, our team will work unbelievably hard and make vast improvements all week, only to lose the following game. Sometimes parents don’t agree on playing time or positions, and we always hear about it. I promise I am making my best judgments on who to put where, and try to play all kids equally. Again, we are all here because we love the game, not because of politics or personal opinions. Coaching is a difficult task, and we ask you respect that.

The last thing you should know is that coaches are human. We make mistakes. In fact, I’m sure every coach regardless of the sport has made a mistake and has bettered their coaching style because of it. Yes, I may have forgotten to email you back. Yes, I may have lost track of time and kept your child over a few minutes. Yes, I sometimes forgot your name. As a human, perfection is rarely achieved in any form. How are coaches any different? I’m sure you’ve left the oven on once. I’m sure you’ve been late to work or to a meeting. I’m sure you’ve forgotten to call someone back after a long day. I don’t expect you to be perfect, so please be respectful and empathetic if I do make a mistake. As I’ve said already, coaching is the art of multi-tasking, and is a difficult task, and I am bound to make a mistake or two.

It’s not always easy being a parent in the stands. Many times the only tool you have to use is your voice and your hands. This makes vocalizing comments or cheers pure instinct. While it is important to cheer the team on, and I would hope you’d do so, when something doesn’t go our way and you want to holler, just remember this letter. Remember what coaches go through in order to give your child the best experience possible. Remember who we are and where we are coming from. Put yourself in our shoes and see the multitude of things we orchestrate every practice and game. It’s okay to think critically about our coaching styles, the flow of the game, and your child’s enjoyment, but remember, after everything, this is just a game and we are all here for the same reasons: to experience the joy of the sport.

Sincerely,

Your volunteer coach.