It’s no secret that teens and young adults today are facing more pressures than ever before. Between striving for grade point averages high above 4.0 to having a healthy social life and preparing for a successful future, the stress is becoming too much to handle.
A new study by the Journal of Pediatrics found that the number of young people between the ages of 12 and 20 who have reportedly experienced Major Depressive Episodes (MDE) has increased exponentially—37 percent from 2005 to 2014.
Isaiah Woods is a collegiate athlete who had a promising football career in front of him. But his freshman year at the University of Washington revealed a more pressing matter that would determine his future.
“Everything seemed dark,” he explained on Megyn Kelly Today, “both literally and figuratively.”
On the outside, Isaiah was just like any other college athlete— fighting week-in and week-out on the football field and in the classroom to maintain his scholarship. But on the inside, he was buried under the weight of crippling anxiety and depression.
“I was having anxiety attacks…to where you couldn’t breathe, Isaiah explains. “I have asthma so, I know what not breathing and what gasping for breath is, and if feels completely different than that.”
The warning signs were there, but Isaiah continued to suffer in silence for the sake of his football career and college tuition.
His friends were unaware of the internal battle he was fighting. His teammates were in the dark about how badly Isaiah didn’t have the will to get out of bed in the morning. And his family had no idea how close they were to losing him.
The teen revealed to Megyn Kelly that he had contemplated suicide and even attempted to take his own life on two separate occasions.
Spoken as a true sufferer of mental health, Isaiah says it was never a cry for help, he just simply “wanted to go.”
It’s hard for those who have never experienced the crippling effects of depression or anxiety to comprehend how someone could find contentment in no longer existing. The complexities of chemical imbalances that we don’t even understand ourselves seem impossible to verbalize to our family or friends who are mentally healthy.
Ultimately, suicide is not the answer. And there ARE people out there who understand, and have the resources and tools to help.
Isaiah made the decision to check him into the psychiatric facility at the University of Washington.
He underwent several tests and evaluations before then starting treatment to help him get his anxiety and depression under control. Isaiah made the impossible decision to forgo his college football career in order to take back his life and become himself again.
But before leaving the Huskies, Isaiah took to Twitter with a moving explanation for his absence.
The 398-word tweet was different than the original “generic” letter Isaiah had planned to write. His announcement was raw and honest, and revealed his struggle in a way that wasn’t sugar-coated, or made to look pretty.
“If I’m going to do this, I want to be truthful to myself and honest to everybody else,” Isaiah recalls his thought process. “And then I thought about the other people out there who could be dealing with this but don’t want to come out because of the stigma.”
Been debating on posting this but this is me taking steps in the right direction to becoming myself again.. pic.twitter.com/ptE1k9oKKJ
— Isaiah Woods (@WaveGodZay) May 29, 2016
Isaiah knows he isn’t alone in his fight. He hopes that in sharing his story, others facing similar challenges will find comfort in seeking help.
After more than a year of treatment, Isaiah says he is finally happy again. And not only has his journey led him back to a healthier state of mind, it’s also come full circle, opening doors for a second chance at a football career. Isaiah will be returning to the football field in April of 2018.
You are not your depression. You are not your anxiety, personality disorder or mental illness. You were created to have life and have it abundantly. My prayer today is that if you are facing an uphill battle like Isaiah was, you would find comfort in knowing that there IS hope.
If you or someone you know needs support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.