Photographs by Cristina Gutierrez
"Devan is an amazing person, an amazing friend, a lover of cranberry vodkas, and is truly an artist when it comes to using certain expletives to make her point. But above all that, she’s also a person who inspires others. With everything she’s gone through, she still finds a way to always make the people around her laugh and feel special. I’m so proud to be her friend and to watch Heart to Heart grow, and to watch her continue to advocate for mental health awareness through her career. She truly is a trailblazer in everything she does, and I am so proud to call her my friend, roommate, and favorite person to sweat with on a crowded Red Line train at 8 AM five days a week."
– Danielle LaPierre
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A TRAILBLAZER?
Did you know that if you google trailblazer, you get a "person who makes a new track through wild country." Which sure that can definitely be a trailblazer, but that is not what comes to mind for me, even being from Maine, you won't catch me in the "Wild Country."
Being a trailblazer to me is being someone who’s not afraid to challenge the status quo and being able to see that just because this is how something has always gone, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how we are always going to do it. I think that it a trailblazer is someone who wants to push the envelope and make the world a better place for everyone else, and at least in my case, someone who has been through something that hurt them and they don’t want anyone else to hurt.
When I started Heart to Heart; I wanted to be a trailblazer, but 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 I am someone who beat depression and am living mental illness free – because I am not. But that’s okay.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE OR CAREER?
I could say a lot of things for this one. Graduating college, getting a dream job, telling my story, starting a mental health initiative and spreading it to 13 schools, speaking to schools and at conferences.
But my biggest moment is this: still being here.
There were times I didn’t want to be, times I thought of giving up and that this world would be better off that way. But the biggest moment of my life and career is learning to take each challenge as it comes and remember to live in the moment, laugh louder, smile bigger, and never be afraid to admit when you’re hurting. Learning that lesson has set me up for more amazing moments in my life and career but also the ability to get through the harder days.
SOUNDTRACK OF YOUR LIFE:
Follow me on Spotify and you can see that my bands/artists that make up the soundtrack of my life are a perfect depiction of how random I can be. Legit everything from Beauty and the Beast and the Little Mermaid to Post Malone to Every Time We Touch by Cascade.
WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?
This to some could come off really wrong, but those who know me, know what a big deal it is for me to even say it – and that’s that I am proudest of myself. This shit isn’t easy. Telling my story, admitting the hurt I can still be in, that some days I don’t want to talk to a soul, or the voices in my head saying the awful things. I am proudest of myself because guess what?
I do keep going.
I do begin each day again.
I never give up.
I am honest with myself and my people.
And I have chosen to use this story of mine, the adversity in my life and the choices I have made be a story and a platform to help others. I am proud of what Heart to Heart; has become and the impact it continues to have. I am proud of how far SHU has come, the world is coming, Heart to Heart; has come, and how far I continue to go.
I didn’t want to be here – and not because of anything else other than I didn’t want to live in the pain I was in anymore, it wasn’t something that I could picture myself doing. I lost sight of things getting better, that things really are going to be okay, always.
THIS WORLD NEEDS MORE:
Casey Quinns! (She's going to kill me for that)
But seriously, she cares more about us athletes than anyone I have ever met. She scared the crap out of me when I first met her as she stood silently at practice. However, she cares – more than she would ever lead on and more than anyone who comes across her would guess. She fixed me time and time again, dealt with me being the most impatient patient ever. But the best thing she did for me isn’t that she always told me to never give up, but that she demonstrated what it meant to never give up – she never gave up on me.
She heard the same news from the surgeons who said I wouldn’t be able to be a goalie again, and she made sure that she would never let that happen. She gave me hope and strength to fight through every setback, both the ones you could see and the ones you couldn’t.
She’s more than an amazingly talented and smart athletic trainer (DO NOT CALL THEM TRAINERS), but she’s an amazing person. Through and through.
WHAT PARTICULAR EXPERIENCE AT SHU SHAPED YOU THE MOST?
I think as awful in the moment that it was, my injuries shaped me the most. I had 4 knee surgeries, 1 hip surgery, some nerve palsy, concussion, a stress fracture in my femur, and a dislodged lens in my eye from playing hockey at Sacred Heart. I now get to set off the security at TSA with the screws in my leg, These injuries brought me to Casey, who for those who know Heart to Heart; and my story know the absolute incredible impact she had on my life as an athlete, a student, but most importantly as a normal every day human being.
She saw me on the absolute darkest days, she held me up, she saw the tears, the breakdowns, but most importantly she saw what NO one else was seeing. And that was the hurt that came beyond the physical setbacks and pain of my injuries. And as hard and as much as I HATED being sidelined so often, being on crutches, being allowed to wear sunglasses to class (thanks Case??), the battle inside of me was so much worse than all the physical. Athletics was such a large part of my life for so long that learning how to navigate my life without it was difficult.
I learned that for the past however many years of my life of being a part of team and being an athlete, it was my coping, it was where I was able to go and get away. When that was taken from me, on the first day of school, in a new place, away from home - I was completely lost. But, as hard as my path was at Sacred Heart, I think it equipped me to take on adversity and learn more about myself. I have met the most amazing people at SHU and I wouldn’t trade any part of my path for anything, because it showed me a strength in me that is far larger than my strengths as an ice hockey player.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE NEVER CHANGES?
I hope that one thing that never changes is the conversations being had about mental health. I think although some days it can appear we have a long way to go, at the same time, it has come so far even in the past two years.
From athletes in all of the professional leagues, collegiate athletes, movie stars and everyone in between. EVERYONE is slowly feeling more comfortable having this conversation and the more that we do talk about it the more that the stigma gets smaller and less powerful.
The biggest barrier standing between societies and making mental health normalized, is breaking that stigma down.
To me, conversations are the biggest weapon we have to take it on. I hope the trajectory of how we talk about this topic continues in the direction it is going and that more people realize - it’s okay to not be okay.
WHO ARE THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE?
As for life, I think that answer will always be my family. CHEESY – I know, but my brothers are my absolute best friends, even if they can be the absolute worst, and my parents would truly and utterly do anything for me since day 1. This list could be a mile long, from my neighbors, teachers I’ve had to teachers I never had, to coaches and teammates.
You know, I have NOT been in this adulting game long and I am sure that as my career progresses, I will meet even more influential people. But my current team at work, from my manager on down, have truly inspired me to not only get better and be honest about it, but for hardly knowing me at the time, picked me up and checked in on me when I needed them the most. They care more than my wildest dreams and I am so grateful for that.
WHO WOULD YOU LOVE TO INTERVIEW?
Rachel Hollis – I am obsessed with her. Not even like a little fan girl thing, I am OBSESSED. I follow every account she could possibly have, her husband, her businesses, read her books. I know this is about young trailblazers to follow, and I am supposed to get you to follow me, but GO FOLLOW HER. She’s amazing. (@msrachelhollis)!!
WHAT'S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED?
I was told recently actually, very recently, that each day we begin again.
Someone extremely important and close to me told me this. I was told this in the sense of no matter how bad the demons get, no matter how much hurt I may feel, that each day can be started fresh. Each day I can be better, each day I can fight harder, and each day is a win, because I am still here.
I learned that it isn’t about “being cured” it’s about learning that this is who I am, and accepting it. This is something I live with and will have the ebb and flow life of some really good periods and some bad ones too. It’s about learning that I have the tools, and coping skills to be better each time we go through an ebb and to always remember my people.
Knowing and believing deep in my heart how damn loved I am and how cared about I am has helped so much. I’ve got my people and together, in all their special and miraculous ways, help me begin again every single day.