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Katie Burkhart's Story: Part III, Rock Bottom

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(Stephen Pingry/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

My thoughts feel erratic and I'm struggling to write how I feel clearly. I can feel myself literally holding back. It's absurd, but fear is absurd and so is feeling shame and guilt.

I always and forever want to be the best at what I do. Because of my insane competitive nature and perfectionism, it kept me from trying things I might fail at. I’m living proof that no matter the demon inside you, you are an over-comer. This is a part of our genetic makeup.

This part of my story is going to be very difficult for me to write, and I can feel myself holding onto the emotional scar I have lived with for over 14 years.

When I was younger I was in a situation with a neighbor boy and my escape was my mom calling for me.

This horror would follow me into college and 11 years later I wouldn’t be as lucky. This wasn’t my choice.

The night it happened I was helping a friend from getting arrested. Both of us were three sheets to the wind and had been underage drinking on Cinco de Mayo.

My fate that night would not turn out as innocently and would be an emotional scar I would hold inside for five years before telling anyone.

Holding in trauma is the worst thing you can do. I often believed that it was what pushed my intensity in softball, and thank GOD I had this as a focus. However, when trauma is a driving force in your life, eventually, you will hit rock bottom if it is not taken care of.

Our minds are strong, but our mind also rewires itself to cope. This is what becomes dangerous.

I didn’t have many people I trusted or felt I could trust. My fear of telling anyone would be a public shame, my teammates not seeing me as a leader, and I would become “that girl” at school. During this time I thought about suicide, and specifically, during a game against Washington I told our trainer “I didn’t want to live anymore.”

All because my life at this point had become only about the success I achieved on the field, and at this time I was having it handed to me. I’m positive there are a few home-run balls still circling the solar system.

Earlier in the season after breaking my ankle, I had three sessions with our Sports Psychologist having me sit in “good Katie” chair and “bad Katie” chair, talking to myself back and forth. I was over it. This would keep me from wanting to seek help after that situation that night, and it would be five years until I would walk into another therapist's office.

Knowing you have problems you can’t solve or fix is terrifying. It’s still frustrating admitting that I was a victim because it forces me to be vulnerable and makes me feel weak.

I was worried to write about this, to share this part of me with whoever is reading because I don’t want to be pitied or looked at differently or have someone out there tell me, “Well you were drunk, its kind of your fault.”

I’ve lived with that thought for 14 years. I believed it was my fault and somehow I led him on to believe I wanted it. Heck, I was nicknamed the “Prude” in high school because I was saving myself for marriage.

The worst part about this situation is that it has shaped me into the opposite of what I wanted to be. I always thought of myself as courageous, the fight-back-type of a woman, but I’ve given this so much power that it has become part of my identity. I didn’t recognize this until I started writing about it.

Who am I without softball and carrying this burden with me? Why didn’t I just get the help early on, so I didn’t have to hit rock bottom?

Those are questions I ask myself every day. We all have the power of choice unless it’s taken, and I’ve surrendered my good decisions with many bad decisions. Allowing myself to cope with heavy drinking, drugs and one night stands.

My drinking got out of control and led me to a DUI in 2017 while working in the wine industry. I trusted my co-worker to bring me back safely to her place to stay the night and instead drops me off at my car. Inhibitions are low and the athlete in me takes over. Luckily, no one was injured and I’m grateful it happened to me. This time it was my fault for drinking.

I’ve chosen to fight my war with the dude upstairs, seek help when I need it and embarking on MBSR Meditation (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction).

My inner demons don’t have power unless I give them power. Courage is asking for help, brevity is facing your fears, and loving yourself is a choice. You are not alone, and if you ever need anything please reach out.

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Katie Burkhart's Story: Part II, A Storm Is Brewing

Katie Burkhart gives a personal and detailed account of her softball career and life.

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