NOT ALONE

By Tommy Elwood

I started running around fourth grade.

Back then, I mostly did it for the fun rewards.

We had this one-kilometer race, for example, where the top 10 got a t-shirt.

Well, I finished 12th.

I was a little sad, but in all honesty, it was moments like this that just fueled the fire for me to come back the next year and get into the top 10.

And just for context, I did just that and got my t-shirt.

Reflecting back on this, I just think it’s funny how life works sometimes.

A simple fourth-grade competition led me to become a Division I student-athlete at DePaul University and school record holder in the 5k. 

All those years of hard work, dedication, and heart led me to this point in my life.

However, it wasn’t easy.

There were times when I didn’t know how to move on.

In high school, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and it changed my life forever.

The beginning

I first started experiencing symptoms during my junior year of high school.

My grandpa passed away and it took a big toll on me. 

I was young and didn’t have any experience dealing with something like this.

So many different emotions were running through me, and I didn’t know how to handle it all.

It all came to a head when I went to see a doctor and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Honestly, it just was such a shock.

I was only in high school.

These are the years where you are supposed to be young and carefree.

Instead, I was dealing with issues that I didn’t even understand.

I tried to keep it to myself as best as possible because I didn’t think anyone would understand.

I mean, how could they? At that time, I didn’t even understand it myself.

But I couldn’t keep it to myself for long.

It was a constant battle for me.

I was confused, angry, and upset.

Running was an escape for me, and it was something that I loved and always enjoyed.

But with everything going on, running just didn’t do it for me.

I didn’t enjoy it, and just felt so down and out that I quit for about a month and a half. 

It was the most challenging time of my life because I was dealing with the loss of my grandpa and a diagnosis I didn’t even understand.

I didn’t know how my life would ever get back to normal.

When I got back into running, in one of my first races back, I did horribly.

And my high school coach at the time came up to me after to check in on me and see if everything was okay. 

I opened up a bit to him and it felt good to have his support.

We put together a plan to help me prepare for the outdoor season and it felt good to just kind of occupy my mind with something else. 

In general, my high school coach has been such a huge influence in my life, and I’m so grateful for everything he’s done for me.

I don’t know where I would be without his guidance and support.

The college struggle

Once I got to DePaul, I was so excited to start this new chapter in my life.

I worked extremely hard and made sure that I was doing everything in my power to accomplish all my goals and dreams.

But my struggles didn’t just go away.

Truthfully, I still deal with it daily, but the older I get, the better I manage it.

But my sophomore year, in particularly, was really challenging. 

I was in great shape, felt good about my running, but the results just weren’t what I had hoped for. 

I was running some of the worst times in my life, and I just couldn’t figure out what was going on.

I was so down on myself and just kept digging myself into a deeper hole.

I was putting so much pressure on myself to succeed that it was starting to take a toll on me.

I was constantly in my head, and I just couldn’t shake it.

I started to realize that I was letting my depression and anxiety control my life, and I didn’t want that to happen.

I reached out to the athletic department, and they helped set me up with a new therapist.

And that has been a game-changer for me.

We talk about a lot of different things, and I always leave feeling like a better person.

He’s been able to help me in so many different ways, and I’m so grateful for everything he’s done for me.

I still have my days, obviously, but I’m in a much better place than I was before, and I’m learning how to manage those days. 

I’ve come a long way from those high school days, and I’m so proud of everything I’ve accomplished.

I was constantly in my head, and I just couldn’t shake it. I started to realize that I was letting my depression and anxiety control my life, and I didn’t want that to happen. I reached out to the athletic department, and they helped set me up with a new therapist. And that has been a game-changer for me.

The message

I just can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take care of yourself.

And that’s really one of the messages I’d like to convey with my story here.

I’m not sharing my story for sympathy.

I’m sharing it because there are so many college athletes that are struggling.

There’s a huge stigma around mental health, and I want to do my part to get rid of it.

I want to be a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one.

I want to be there for anyone that needs help.

We’re in this together, and I’m here to help anyone that needs it.

I’ve come so far, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me.

I’m so grateful for the life I’m living, and I want to continue to use my experiences to inspire others.

I’m going to keep fighting every single day, and I won’t let my depression and anxiety hold me back from anything.

If I can do it, so can you.

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