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  • Brandon Lamphier-Shaffer

7 Stories in 7 Days: Day 4 - Opening Up About Anxiety, Jessica Giacoma's Story

19 years of my life have been spent active in sports.

I started out in tap dance when I was 3 years old. Followed by ballet, jazz, hip hop, and gymnastics until the age of 5 when I started playing baseball/softball. I found love for the game at a young age and decided that I wanted to get a softball scholarship to college. The dream of every young athlete is to play division 1 and I made up my mind that this was where I was going to get. I also knew that my grades were not good enough for a fat academic scholarship so my only hope for paying for college myself was going to be with an athletic scholarship. Though this goal seemed to be the forefront of my reasoning for being active, I began to realize it was doing a lot more for me than I thought.

From a young age I consistently struggled and lived with anxiety. There really wasn’t a whole lot for me to be anxious about as a 5th grader but that for sure didn’t stop me. I remember getting picked up from school and telling my mom that something was wrong. That I had a massive pit in my stomach, and I couldn’t figure out what I was so worried about. She threw out topics for me to consider and cross off my list of reasons, but we couldn’t figure it out. For years this continued fairly frequently. During these times I had trouble focusing on my schoolwork, communicating with family and friends, and controlling my overall mood. At some point down the line, I started to recognize this feeling as anxiety.

Nobody really talked about their mental health. Even if you were scraping rock bottom, it seemed everyone kept it to themselves and pretended to be fine. I definitely wasn’t going to be the vulnerable one and bring attention to such a taboo topic. My mom was the only person I really opened up to about my anxiety... And this was mostly because apparently her sixth sense is being able to read my mind even when I did my best to hide the fact that I was struggling.

Sports and training became an outlet for me. Even on days that I was heavy hearted with anxiety, this was the place that made it all go away. It was as though a reset button was pushed inside my mind and I could just be me again. Days that I had softball or volleyball practice were significantly better for me then when I spent them not being active. Once I realized this, I made it a point to spend time being active every day and I began to see improvement in my mental health.

Everyone goes through seasons of anxiety, depression, and or struggle. Being able to openly talk about my mental health has been huge part of my journey. I stopped letting myself care about what other people would think of me and started to accept that I am not alone. I could either put on a face and make people think I have it all together or I could speak my truth and hopefully help others in their journey.

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