Brooke Nelson is dedicated to raising awareness of mental health.
SEATTLE – The month of May is Spiritual Awareness Month and Brooke Nelson, University of Washington softball star wants everyone to know that it’s okay not to be okay.
At Bonney Lake, Brooke Nelson was the Gatorade Player of the Year. She won a state championship title and was among the best recruits in the country.
By the time she got to the University of Washington, Brooke was no longer the best player on the team.
“The freshman year was probably the hardest, just the transition, because before college you were the cream of the crop. But then, you know, especially at a Power Five, it’s the turn of the best of the best.” “A team. When you’re young you’re trying to learn everything at once, things I didn’t know, and that’s kind of when I started battling depression, anxiety and all those thoughts,” Nelson said.
Her mental toughness was tested, and then things got worse when the COVID-19 pandemic cut short the season.
“Your identity has been tied to a sport for so long and then when that sport disappears you don’t really know what to do. We didn’t really have anything to draw on, I guess, and that’s a good thing when the whole mental side of the game really came to the fore,” Nelson said.
Brooke struggled with loneliness, self-doubt, depression and anxiety. She had hit a wall and was having suicidal thoughts.
“At least from my side there was no action, I mean there was always the thought what if I wasn’t here,” Nelson said.
Brooke didn’t want to admit she was having trouble.
“It’s a difficult thing in sport because you never want to show your weakness, but I think it’s especially important to have that conversation because mental health has kind of come to the fore. As if it were okay. It’s not a weakness. There’s strength in vulnerability,” Nelson said.
Brooke was encouraged by a teammate to seek therapy.
“I think the best thing that ever happened was having this conversation with a senior[on the team]and being able to access mental health resources and speak to a licensed psychologist to just talk through all of those emotions,” said Nelson.
Being vulnerable, meeting with a therapist, having conversations about mental health — all have helped Brooke. But she also found comfort in a four-legged friend.
“Bailey is my two and a half year old chocolate baby. We adopted her from the Seattle Humane Society this summer. So she’s technically my ESA, my registered emotional support animal, but she’s been super helpful to me on the balance,” Nelson said.
Bailey was undoubtedly a girl’s best friend.
“She probably doesn’t know how much she means to me,” Nelson said.
On the hill, Brooke said she didn’t feel any better physically or emotionally. Off the field, she has made it her mission to raise awareness of mental health.
“I think what’s so hard for a lot of athletes is they think it’s weak to have these feelings and have these conversations, but there’s so much power in being able to talk about what’s going on , instead of having it suppressed somehow – Which is so easy in college sports. First, it’s okay not to be okay. But I would also say there are so many people around you who care about you and love you and so just reach out. It’s okay to have these people that you can turn to and say, “Hey, I’m having issues,” Nelson said.