Part 3: Coaches help to #BreakTheStigma around depression and suicide: “The why….”

At the beginning of the month University of Florida assistant coach Shimmy Gray-Miller began a project focusing on mental health awareness, depression and suicide in athletics. Her efforts included publishing a series of essays on her her website. We are cross-posting the essays on Hoopfeed. This week’s essay focuses on why many in athletics struggle with discussing mental health issues.

Doshia Woods.
Doshia Woods.

Each email, text, tweet, and favorite that we have received over the past three weeks is encouragement and validation that we made the right decision to openly discuss depression and our individual struggles with it. We know that we aren’t alone.

I applaud my friends for using my personal website as an outlet and a speaker through which their voices are heard. I thank you for being open-minded and allowing me to digress from “normal” Coach material and supporting us by reading the posts.

You’ve heard from Lindsay and Meghin. Now meet Doshia…


“The Why”
By Doshia Woods, Tulane University

May has a few distinctions and celebrations that are synonymous with the month. Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Cinco De Mayo…and wouldn’t you know it, Mental Health Awareness month.

In our society we have long wrestled with the proper use and acceptance of those struggling mentally. We struggle to talk about it; we struggle to be there for each other; we struggle to express ourselves. We all know someone that knows someone that suffers from: depression, bipolar, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, and a whole host of other mental health issues. We struggle for various reasons:

PERCEPTION: Cases where people should seek therapy and they don’t. The fear of others knowing your struggles paralyzes you. The idea that somehow you’re not as competent as you used to be. “You’re soft,” creeps into your mind and literally freezes you. Your world collides between hurt, disappointment, frustration, rejection & sadness because the pain is building a barrier around your core. I’ve experienced those feelings myself. Not wanting to tell anyone my deepest hurt. Not wanting to tell anyone how I was abused. Not wanting anyone to know that PTSD is real. The flashbacks, nightmares, guilt, shame, and blame affected me. It did and still does. What will they think of me now and who will possibly love me? PTSD is real. Traumatic events happen in life but how will you let it affect you? Some days are better than others but don’t allow yourself to suffer alone, sitting in silence and drowning in your own thoughts. Therapy helped me, gave me an outlet and provided me with tools to coexist with that part of myself. Therapy allowed me to understand the reality of who I am, what I went through, but most importantly, WHAT I AM CAPABLE OF! I survived. I am a survivor and that perception fuels me.

VULNERABILITY: This is what stops most of us from going into the water and feeling free to express ourselves. We get to the edge, but can we really handle being vulnerable? Do I have the courage to speak on these internal emotions? Does the fear of “others knowing who I really am” scare me more than speaking about them? We seek help for almost everything else in our lives. If you’re learning a sport you hire a coach. If you have an ailment, you find a qualified doctor. If you’re struggling in school, you Google a tutor. Yet, when it’s time for your mental needs you do nothing. You attempt to handle this on your own. Small problem, you’re not educated in that field. I don’t know the first thing about knee surgery so at the end of my freshman year in college I didn’t attempt to perform that procedure myself. After years of suppressing my past and working hard to ignore my pain, I sought help. I went weekly, slowly peeling back the layers of my life; the different abuses and adversities that revealed why now, in my adult life I react the way I do in certain situations. One of the toughest, yet best decisions of my life. Be smart and selective about whom you choose to be vulnerable with. Know your friends and your audience. When you do develop the courage to talk about your mental struggles, seek those friends who show empathy, compassion, sympathy, and are good listeners. I have a core of friends I know I can turn to on tough days and I am blessed to have them in my life and thankful for the time they make for me.

I highlighted a few reasons why I struggled talking about mental health. We all have our own reasons, fears and excuses. Your life is worth sharing and worth living. Writing poetry has provided an outlet for my feelings and pain. I’ve also developed an interest in yoga, meditation, running, (and a LOVE OF FACIALS!), to care for myself. Taking time for me and giving myself the freedom to feel whatever it is I feel. I do these things in order to invest in me. To invest in what I have to offer the world. To invest in my own happiness. Love yourself enough to love yourself unconditionally.


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