Hi, I am a softball catcher at the University of Georgia
“Hi, I am Payden Bordeau! I am currently a sophomore softball catcher at the University of Georgia.” I have introduced myself to new people that way my entire life. I’ve been playing softball since I was 4 years old. But what is interesting about me other than softball? That's the question athletes all over the country are asking themselves about their own sport. Sports around the world are reaching new heights year in and year out. While this is amazing, as an athlete I've had a hard time remembering I am more than a softball player. I am more than a catcher. I am more than the statistics associated with my name as a member of the University of Georgia softball team.
Mental health? Not me.
Before college athletics, if you would've asked me about my mental health, I would've looked at you like you were crazy. I never thought the term “mental health” would ever apply to me. However, this all changed when I entered my second semester as a collegiate athlete. I started my college career in the fall of 2020. In the beginning, it was awesome. I was away from home for the first time ever, with so many new friends, living the college life everyone has dreamed of and imagined it would be like since a young age (except for the covid part but that's a whole different story as we all know). For a lot of people, this kind of happiness and joy continues for the entirety of their college career. Unfortunately, for me that was not the case. Things changed quickly over the next few months for me.
The battle began with the pandemic…
Due to covid, our Christmas break ended up being 2 months long rather than a couple of weeks. This long break back home was the best two months of my life. Being back home with family and friends was amazing. In addition, this was the first time my long-distance boyfriend and I were able to spend an extended amount of time together. Truly I did not even want to think about going back to college in Georgia. However, that day still came. This was also when my battle with mental health first began. When coming back to college and starting my first softball season at UGA, I wanted to be excited! I wanted to wake up and feel like I have made it. I've made it to the days I have been working toward my whole life, but sadly those feelings weren't there. Instead, I was feeling homesick, experiencing self-doubt, and just overall emptiness. I wasn’t feeling “whole” as you could say. Something was missing and I would wake up feeling this way each and every day.
The isolation brought emptiness and self-doubt
As I mentioned before this was all happening during the Covid pandemic. I had no in-person classes, there weren't many social events we were allowed to go to due to me being an NCAA athlete, covid tests were constant at this time. All of this meant we were basically locked up in the dorms for the majority of our freshman year. For almost a solid five months of my life, it was getting on zoom for classes in my dorm room, going to work out, going to practice, playing a game every now and then. It was school, softball, sleep, repeat. Doing the same thing every single day was getting boring and became both mentally, and physically draining.
I felt alone and lost
Throughout these several months of my life, I felt alone. I felt like I was just away at school playing softball just because. I didn't feel like I had a reason why I was doing it. While I did feel this way, I also knew I wasn’t alone at all. I had so many people there for me every second of the day, supporting this dream I've dreamt of since I was a little girl. At the end of the day, I simply just felt alone. It was like the dream I’ve had for years had been lost.
I felt like I was living the same life every single day, not taking care of myself, not fueling myself the way a Division 1 athlete should. Aside from being an athlete, I wasn’t doing the basic things in life you usually do on an everyday basis to just take care of yourself. Eating felt like too much work. “I can just rewear this shirt, right?” “Do you want to come to dinner with us tonight?” “No, I have homework.”... But actually, I was weeks behind in my homework and still had no plans to catch up on it. I was just going to stay at the dorm, maybe heat up some leftovers, or some nights I would just go to bed.
My recovery: starting from within
It wasn’t until the summertime after this freshman year was over that I realized something was really wrong, and that I couldn't live my life that way for my full college career. During this time, I had people asking if I was okay and I just said yes because I did not want to make a big deal out of what I thought was nothing. Over the summer, it all switched. I wanted to take care of myself first before I focused on anything else. Going back home was a restart, I got to focus on myself, be with people I loved, and planned on moving out of the dorms into a new house when coming back to school in August. It was something to look forward to knowing I hopefully wasn’t going back into the same environment and same habits I had several months before.
Athlete or not, you are not alone.
Being an athlete takes a lot, but I learned the hard way, you cannot do it by yourself, truly you cannot do life yourself. Every single feeling you have are valid, and while some are uncontrollable you can still decide how you let it affect you. My negative thoughts and feelings were consuming me. Nonetheless, once I took the time to acknowledge them and develop ways of coping with them, I was able to turn everything around. It’s important to remember you cannot do this alone and that’s what I realized. Overall athlete or not, you are not alone during this crazy thing on life!