get up it’s gameday

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I love college football. As an added bonus to college football comes College GameDay. When I spent what should’ve been my first semester as a freshman at Clemson at home, I looked forward to watching CGD every Saturday with my dad.

I would the next year in 2013 get the opportunity from a ~dope~ friend/roommate of mine to have a “backstage” pass to stand behind the orange tape and hang with the coolies. I remember they had the most awesome random stuff back there. Thank goodness I document every trivial thing in my life so I can show you:

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But seriously, it was so cool because I got to meet briefly Samantha Ponder and David Pollack and a really nice security guard.

It was super awesome and Clemson ended up beating UGA that night which no one was expecting.

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Even though my worst mania, I still have a fond memory of that experience. I’ve always loved college football because I grew up watching it with my 3 brothers and my parents.

Back in 2012, I decided I wanted to be a sports reporter.. Something I always give up on once I become slightly depressed. I love film and football so I feel like it works in my head. I’m still not convinced this dream is at all realistic and right now that’s just what it is- a dream.

This dream always comes back to the forefront in the fall during football season. Last fall, less than a week after my withdrawal from Clemson, I wrote one of my heroes, Samantha Ponder, a letter. I haven’t told many people this story because it’s actually pretty embarrassing. While completely manic and not allowed to drive or leave the house, I had my neighbor drive me to SEC network in Charlotte because I wanted to send Samantha a fan letter.

The letter was nothing too out of the ordinary. I figured famous people get fanmail all the time. I told her how much I admired her and that I had just had a really tough time, and also that I was coming to grips with being bipolar. I included a few pictures of GameDay and a picture of myself. The receptionist was really nice and she said she’d make sure someone got it.

Fast forward about a week. I have an incoming call from Bristol, Connecticut. For anyone who might not know, Bristol is where ESPN is headquartered. When I saw the caller ID I got so beyond excited. All of the possibilities of this call were running through my head that instant. I had just had a terrible and pretty lonely week. When I picked up the call, I heard a voice on the line say, “This is ESPN security in Bristol, Connecticut. Is this Laura?”

My heart dropped. I told him that it was and then he said, “Why did you write that letter?”

I told him I really admired Sam Ponder and that I wanted to tell her she was a hero to me. He told me that it was really strange and asked if I thought the same. I didn’t know what to say. Honestly I have never gone from so excited to so mortified in that few seconds.

“It’s just weird and people don’t usually tell random people about their story. It’s okay, but just so you know, we’re putting you on a list at ESPN, so don’t go back to SEC network or write anything else.”

I apologized profusely and hung up the phone. I started to cry. I was absolutely heartbroken.

Looking back on that situation, I honestly can’t help but think that the reason why my letter was so alarming was because I said I have bipolar disorder.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it was just “really weird” to tell a strong woman in the sports industry that I look up to her.

Surely someone who is mentally ill that’s writing to someone and saying nice things must be a stalker and a psychopath.

I just can’t shake the feeling in retrospect that if I had cancer or a physical ailment that the letter would’ve been received completely different.

So is this what we’re telling the mentally ill community? Even if maybe we don’t mean to or think we are? Are we saying that we’re scared they’re going to stalk us and harm us?

I don’t think anything hurts me more than that. Not that any violence is ever justified, but maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy for those ill souls. Once again, let me emphasize that I’m not in any way condoning this behavior, but why do we treat people this way to their breaking point?

I never feel more inhuman than when I hear slams against the mentally ill being all killers.

It makes it seem like we are the sole problem with the world. That my bipolar should isolate me like some kind of leper in Bible times.

Well I refuse to do that. If I have to be one of the only ones to tell our story, then I will. If I have to let people know just how broken we all really are because of this, I will.

I can’t be told any longer to share less. If you don’t like reality, then move along I guess and wade in your ignorance.

The real enemy and issue we fall captive to is our apathy.

Because honestly, why put in the effort to care about anyone but ourselves and our bubble. That is the nation’s mentality.

Whether you like it or not, there are people all around you everyday that put up walls to hide their mental health struggle from you. They refuse to be labeled as the condition that ails them. They want you to like them, to accept who they are outside of their illness. We all want that. I promise there are far more people than you think.

Open dialogue and some empathy could really change the momentum in a positive direction for this world. I believe that.

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So love people well. Be aware. Stand up.

ps. I still love ESPN and watch it everyday. Even if they might not love me back HA

XO- Laura

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