"I was 16 years old when I really started paying attention to my MENtal. It was after my junior season & I just knew that I was not in a good MENTal space. At 16, you dream about getting offers from a lot of these schools, but they don't tell you about everything else that comes with that. I was just playing, having fun, but you have all of these coaches telling you that, ''re good,' & you got yourself talking to you like, 'Are you really going to amount to what these coaches think of you? More importantly, what do you even think of yourself?'
That voice carried over onto the field & now on the field it was like, ' you have to live up to these expectations.'   I got to The University of Oregon in 2020 during Covid & I thought these voices & feelings were just a high-school deal. I remember playing Eastern Washington in my first game & in the play I was pulling trying to kick out the defensive end & I missed him. I started to hear those voices again. For me, this place of refuge, of fun, all the things that I worked for, now it's just invaded again with all of these different voices, but now it's heightened. Putting all these pressures & expectations on myself, making sure I am performing well to set myself up & to set my family up, but all of those pressures & voices are all talking at once.   
As fun as my sophomore season was because I finally got to see some action again, it was one of the hardest times of my life. Simply because MENtally, I did not have the tools to take care of myself, honestly. There would be times after games, or after a win, where I would just go home & sit in the dark. Not looking at any performance... sometimes I wouldn't eat & for me, I thought that was a normal deal... I would say the biggest turnaround for me came going into my junior season. I started talking to some people & I (finally) understood that, "I don't want to live like this anymore."  
I know the pressures, the heightened emotions, & the anxiety & depression... I know that was going to be a part of whatever it is, the constant criticism of fine tuning who you are + fine tune your technique, fine-tune who you are as a player, but this other voice in my head, I'm just tired of him running the narrative in my head because I know who I am: I like smiling, I like having fun with my teammates, & I don't like sitting in isolation by myself. So, I started reaching out to a couple people, started talking & Now it's a lot better. Now, I have systems in pace to where I can tend to my MENtal health correctly.  
I am no longer hyper focused on the voices in my head, I'm focused on the systems that I have to combat that. Even before that, I would say God has always been my foundation. He was the one I could really run to when it came to having these problems & voices in my head because I didn't really know how to talk about it. The nature of my position, we're big, strong, & tough -- this is not only what we are, but this is who we are. I found a lot of strength in being vulnerable, whether it was to other people, or to myself. I just found a lot of strength in that & I just found a lot of freedom in it too.  
To my 16 year old self, I would just say, 'You're going to be okay.' I have kind of just learned to accept the pressure, not push away from it. I've learned to give myself space to really talk it out...give myself some time to really just accept what I am trying to get done, not just for my team, but for my family. I just tell my younger self, 'Thank you. Thank you for not giving up on yourself , thank you for always just believing that there is another version of you that doesn't have to live with these voices in your head 24/7 -- (a version) that wasn't going to give up, that wasn't going to let him defeat himself. Knowing how strong of a person you are, knowing how much lobe you have for the game & knowing how much love & joy you bring to it... thanks for not letting these other voices win, my man.'  
My message to other people in regards to their MENtal health would be: you're stronger than you think. A lot of times people look MENtal health as '...oh, you're weak,' or, 'you're soft for expressing these feelings,' but I found my confidence in being like, '...yo - you are one of the strongest individuals I know, to go through all of that MENtal turmoil & to simply just get started is a big confidence booster because a lot of people will fall out at the slightest sign of discomfort, or inconvenience.
To continue to see yourself grow as a human & seeing that when you do reach out to people by just letting them know what you're going through - (those people) are willing to help. The person you want to be on the other side of this is going to thank you & appreciate you a lot more for going through that fire & coming out on top. Just be strong, stay strong, & you're going to be okay." 


June 09, 2024 — Teddy Sourlis