Build a Tribe

by Devan Kane (@devan_kane30), Founder of "Heart to Heart;"

Hey squad, it’s me again. 


The “I’m Fine” girl from a few months ago. BACK AT IT to write a little more on mental health, and more importantly how I took my personal story to make a path for others to follow and have the hope and knowledge that it truly is okay to not be okay. 


For those of you who are not familiar with my story, I went to Sacred Heart University from 2014-2018 and played on the Women’s Ice Hockey team. A long (so absurdly long) story short, I had 5 surgeries over my 4 years there that on a pretty consistent basis left me sidelined and unable to play or unable to play at the level I once was able to. This led to my struggles with depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and an attempt on my life. 


To me, depression, self-harm, and suicide are all avenues that are taken in a state when you feel like you’re not happy when you should be happy, and that you believe you’re hurting people and are a burden. Those illnesses have a way of making you feel and believe that life for everyone else would be better if you didn’t exist. What people tend to forget about suicide is that for lack of a better word, you are almost brainwashed. At that point in time, you feel that it’s the perfect answer to make the other pain stop. 


You’re stuck in a state of thinking it will all be better if you can just disappear. My attempt did not make any sort of sense at face value: I have a wonderful family, wonderful teammates, a great roommate, great friends, and I knew deep down I could come back from this injury, but that’s just it – mental health doesn’t need to make sense. 


Now, there is a light at the end of this tunnel, there is a journey of hope and healing. But let me just make this clear: I still have depression, I still have days where I let little things bug me into feeling like I don’t want to get out of bed. However, through the road of healing that I am still very much on, I have learned of the people in my corner who I can lean on, who I can call, who are there for me, and I started to believe in my own words. To this day, I still need guidance and friendly reminders (or if you’re my good friends, usually an absolute no BS smack that they love me). 


Enough about me. 


I am here to talk about the path that I created with my story. A path of hope, a path of knowledge, and a path of inspiration to be the best person you can be each and every day, to never EVER give up, and to KEEP GOING. 


Devan and Casey

As I mentioned, I was a division 1 athlete at Sacred Heart, and through my experience, I realized there was no way that I was alone and the only athlete, or student, that was suffering. 1 in 5 people suffer from a mental illness while 1 in 4 student athletes suffer from a mental illness. In a classroom of 30 people, that’s 7.5 people, on a team of 30 people, you got it!! 7.5 people. 


I started “Heart to Heart;” with the help of my athletic trainer Casey Quinn (a true full blown hero, let me tell you - dealing with me is NO walk in the park). “Heart to Heart;” is now 2 years old and was created within the athletic department to start a conversation around mental health, to make it as normal as crutches, or asking if someone was feeling better after surgery. 


I had no problem ever taking a question on if someone asked how my knee was doing, but when it came to my brain – no shot.


It was always, “I’m good, how are you?” or “I’m fine” (a classic lie).

I decided that these topics are incredibly hard to talk about, but for some it is a difference of life and death and I have learned that silence can have tragic results and that knowledge can save lives. 


I didn’t ever think that telling my story and that an idea I mentioned in passing to Casey would blow up like this. Never would I think it would inspire all 32 teams at SHU, let alone an entire conference. Society is talking about it, or at least acknowledging mental health in the media, in the workplace, in athletics, etc. But, what I struggle with is that yes, for the most part, mental health is picking up some speed in the aspect of bringing it up, but we are just brushing the surface of “let’s talk about it!” Stigma is VERY much still there. And I think as a society we brush the surface and forget that some of these battles people face every day, and the experiences others have had, are dark and trying times. Even as someone who is “feeling better” in the grand scheme of things, I still have that guilt, that shame of what I put my loved ones through when I was in that dark corner. I don’t think until we can get real about how truly dark these struggles are that we can then as a society take on the true mental health conversation. 


I was told this month’s edition is the “Trailblazer” edition, which I think is a word I used in my last contribution. I want to talk a little bit about that. To me, when I was starting “Heart to Heart;” I wanted to be a trailblazer; I didn’t want people to make anything about me or my story but to use my story and the support of the athletic department, my team, and Casey to pave the way. Pave the way so that NO ONE would ever have to feel the way I felt: alone. I also don’t want people to think that I am someone who beat my depression, came to a realization of everything is okay, and I am living mental illness free, because let me tell you – this hot mess express is STILL very much a mentally ill hot mess express. But, guess what?


That’s okay. 


It’s okay that I am a hot mess express and roll into work with the shower sweats every morning.


It’s okay that I still go to therapy. 


It’s okay that occasionally, I have a breakdown – for really no reason. 


And it is ESPECIALLY okay to admit when I am just not okay. 


I was told something recently that hit home: “You use humor as a defense mechanism.”

Uh, woah. For those of you that know me, I try and literally turn EVERYTHING into a joke if at all possible. Always. To me, making someone laugh is something I LOVE to do. But then I was told it’s my defense mechanism. Which after some thinking, it is. I do use humor as a defense mechanism – a wall. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t have humor or every time I tell a joke it’s a defense, but when things get uncomfortable or people are serious when they ask me how I’m doing, it’s joke time. 


"Heart to Heart;" Founder Devan Kane receiving an award from Sacred Heart Athletics

I don’t want to glorify my experience with mental illness or my journey because there is nothing to glorify. “Heart to Heart;” is a wonderful thing that came about because of ALL of our stories; each and every one of us has a story nobody knows anything about. “Heart to Heart;” created a platform to keep a conversation going, to unify us on a topic that affects each and every one of us in a different way, and to have MENTAL HEALTH be spoken about – always. 


I just started a new job in a new city, and have been going through what my bosses like to call, “the ebb and flow” of both life, and quite honestly my depression. I am in a transition period of feeling as if I don’t have anywhere to stay, or that I don’t know the city that well, and I doubt myself. I am an absolute OLYMPIAN ATHLETE at destroying my own self confidence and thinking I am not worth it every day. 


Whereas I have countless of people in my life that would tell me I am foolish and that I have so many people that love me (and they’re not wrong). But something like moving and changing jobs – that is stressful to most – I blow up into a reaction that is so out of proportion that I forget to take a deep breath, and realize the most important thing.


Everything is going to be okay. More than okay. It’s going to be great. Comfort is the casualty of growth and for me to continue to grow, I have to take risks and realize that those risks are going to take me out at the knees sometimes, but it’ll be worth it. 


My new job was a risk. But, my new coworkers, all the people around me, are truly the best and have proven to me in just my short time that we ALL have people there for us and that the risk was worth it, and I have known these people for 2 months. I want everyone to know that they have people in their corner being cheerleaders, being shoulders to cry on, and just being a friend when you need a friend.  


I will leave you with this: I try every single day to be a trailblazer and to inspire someone, make someone laugh, or to teach someone something. Now, that doesn’t mean by any means I have been successful on that front, but that is my goal every day. On the other hand, I get that inspiration from so many people every day as well. I think that every single person on this earth has the power to be a trailblazer – truly. I am not a special magical human who woke up one morning and was like, “YES, time to be a trailblazer!” 


Not even close. 


I still have my issues to work through too, but I am owning those issues (with a lot of fighting and being STUBBORN as hell) and using them to help people and hopefully help myself in the process. 


Mental health is a huge topic, and with September being Suicide Prevention month, it’s something even more important. No one should ever feel that there is no way out, no one should ever think that that is the option. It’s not. 


You are worth it. 


You are AMAZING. 


You are loved (so so so loved).


You are going to do GREAT things.

 

Never give up.


Keep going.


And if nothing else, be a trailblazer for yourself – and as my bosses (who are the dopest) would say, “build a tribe”. 

Build a damn tribe. 


And hey, if you need some more members – I am always here. 


Xo always, 


Dev, Class of 2018 


Read more from Devan Kane and her incredible work to fight the stigma surrounding mental health here: https://www.shuhearttoheart.com

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