My name is Cortez Standing Bear, and I am all too familiar with feelings of depression, anxiety, self-doubt, and loneliness. My life early on was filled with struggles and trauma, the most influential being the death of my parents at a young age and in tragic ways. This grief has stuck with me, and as a result, I’ve lived much of my life from a place of fear, insecurity, and pain. For the most part, I didn’t struggle with serious mental health issues because I had a healthy outlet - basketball. Later in my athletic career, I had back-to-back surgeries that ripped away what was my outlet but what felt like part of my identity. This loss only compounded the underlying pain I lived with, so to cope, I turned to a drug. Of course, this is when my mental health deteriorated. A majority of my days felt overwhelming and dreadful and I had convinced myself I had no purpose or reason for being here.
I was terrified of feeling vulnerable and I absolutely hated the idea of being seen as weak, so I didn’t let even my closest friends and family know I was struggling and in need of support. I lived by myself for a year during this time - so it was too easy to disappear, hide, and pretend that I was okay. But in reality, isolating myself and suffering in silence caused me to have the darkest year of my life so far.
What I’ve learned from this is that hard times are necessary to show you what you need to heal, but you don’t need to go through it alone and that, despite what your mind tells you, you are never alone. Other than giving and receiving love from those around you, there are so many ways to find joy, empowerment, and inspiration. One thing I love is reading books that make me realize that life is so much bigger than we can understand or comprehend. We are so much more than just a flesh suit and bones - and life will put you in situations that reveal what you need to heal so that you can cultivate a spirit that is stronger than any battle you face.
Perspective is everything. Because of my struggles, I now have so much more understanding, love, and appreciation toward myself and others which allows me to see life from a different perspective that I couldn’t before; this makes life beautiful. I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I do know this: find a way to love yourself, love your people and love your life no matter the circumstances, and I promise it will love you back.