As an athlete, tumultuous situations can be thrown at you at any given moment. Injuries, wins and losses, and the demanding nature of the game can all affect your ability to make your mental health a priority. WhiteFlag Athlete Sierra Orton knows first-hand how important it is to reach out for support.
We sat down with Sierra to dig into how important peer support has been for her as she's worked through injuries and what it's like to reach out for help.
What were your signs that you needed to reach out for support?
One of my biggest signs was that I was pulling away from a lot of my friends. I would go out and just be silent, kind of just "lost," and feeling like I didn't want to be there. Normally, I’m a very outgoing person, and when I realized I was living in my own little bubble and pushing others away, I knew I was at a point where I needed help before I got worse.
What was the hardest part about the first time you were vulnerable with a teammate or coach? What was that like? How did you start the conversation?
Truthfully, the hardest part for me, was admitting I needed help and that I was struggling. I’ve always had it in my mind I could get through everything on my own. To reach the point where I couldn’t handle it on my own any longer hurt me a lot, but I knew it was what I needed because I wasn’t getting any better on my own. I’m not the greatest at talking about my emotions; I bottle them up a lot. I never want to feel like I’m burdening someone else with my issues. So, it was not easy at all to get to that point. But I'm so grateful I found people that I knew had the space and energy to support me, without making me feel that I overwhelmed them with my emotions.
What are some tips you have for others who might be struggling and need to get support?
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Reaching out for support is easier said than done. Trust me, I know. But don’t suffer in silence, reach out for help. There are people in this world that want you to be happy and successful in life.
Teammates can be great sources of support. When you have a great connection with your team, or even just one teammate, lean on them. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Reaching out to your teammates, who understand the grueling process of being an athlete, can provide you with a safe sounding board.
When you think you’re ready to reach out for support, write things down. It can be easier for me to express my feelings and emotions if I've taken the time to write write them down. Oftentimes, I can get caught up in my emotions when I'm trying to express myself. And that's OK! Having them there for me to refer to or to just hand over to someone to read really helps.
Talking to someone anonymously can help you work through your feelings. WhiteFlag is a great place to reach out for support anonymously. Talking to others who might be facing similar things as you, but who aren't involved in your life directly, can help you feel safe and secure to express yourself. It's also an opportunity to build others up and offer support to them, as they are helping to build you up.
Don’t be afraid to try a therapist or counselor. Although I never pictured myself going to therapy, I don’t regret it for one second. I was able to work through many issues, some of which were from years prior. I learned so many healthy coping strategies! It's worth a shot to try it and see if that helps.
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