Hope Athletes’ Journal: Grace Bubin

My name is Grace Bubin. I am a senior and a member of the Hope College women’s soccer team. Here is a piece of my story.

Let me give you a little background on the life of Grace. I come from a great family and a great community — Rockford, Michigan. I have two parents who set a perfect example of loving the Lord and one another. I have a brother who is altogether intelligent and compassionate. And lastly, I have an angel watching over me at all times – my oldest brother, Bobby, who passed away from a heroin overdose about two years ago. Although Bobby’s passing was devastating and heart wrenching, it ultimately led me to strengthen my relationship with Christ and get my mental health back on track. Now, let me tell you a little bit more of my personal battle with mental health.

No one knew it; not my teachers, not even my closest friends. I became a master of putting on a happy face.

Growing up with a supportive family and in an awesome town, I had everything laid out for me. It was no question that I would be successful in both academics and in athletics – both of my brothers were, so therefore, I would be too. And I was. I was able to balance several sports, advanced level classes, extracurriculars, and friendships with ease. I finished my senior year of high school with high academic honors in addition to earning all-state honors in soccer. Being involved in so many things allowed me to get out of the house and escape what was going on back home where both of my brother’s lives were in shambles due to drugs and alcohol. No one knew it; not my teachers, not even my closest friends. I became a master of putting on a happy face.

My parents didn’t know of my inward struggles with anxiety or depression either. I avoided talking to them about my brothers’ battles with addiction and pretended that I didn’t know what was going on. I continued to excel as if there was no other option. I knew if I didn’t, it would cause my parents more troubles. I wanted to bring them a little bit of happiness in the battle they already faced.  

It was hard trying to stay strong for everyone around you with a pasted-on smile that quickly goes away when you’re alone.

It was hard trying to stay strong for everyone around you with a pasted-on smile that quickly goes away when you’re alone. I knew I should express it, but for some reason I only wanted to suppress it. I can tell you first hand it’s tough trying to kill something that’s on the inside, that eats you alive, and there’s nothing you can do about it. No matter how hard you try, the pit in your stomach, the racing thoughts, the tears, and that feeling of numbness just won’t go away.

When I arrived at Hope as a freshman year, I still faced this battle, but I continued to put up a front and kept a smile on my face. Meanwhile, on the inside, I was crumbling, even though I was pre-accepted into the nursing program, I got decent playing time, I had friends in all different things on campus, and I had a boyfriend who thought the world of me. Yet I still felt funny. You know people love you, but it doesn’t feel like they do. You know there is something that will make you feel better, but you just don’t know what that something is. You want to be well, but you just can’t seem to get there. Then the anxiety begins to creep in, causing you to forget how to breathe. Your throat tightens up and your lungs feel as if they are bound to collapse, trying to gasp for air between the cries and wanting to feel something as the tears roll down your cheeks.

I successfully squeaked my way through freshman year without admitting my internal struggles to anyone and managing to avoid having a complete mental breakdown. It wasn’t until that summer I was finally able to admit to myself and my family that I was not doing okay. My anxiety and my depression had gotten so bad that I was physically sick. I had such bad migraines that I would throw up; my thoughts would lead me in such bad places that I would get sick to my stomach. When I opened up to my mother about everything, she handled it with such grace. She got me an appointment with our family doctor who knew our entire family very well and gave me a space me to further talk about my feelings. Talking to the doctor about everything felt so good and it all came out, surprisingly, very easily. After our appointment, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in which I would take a pill daily to help balance my mind and body.

Finally, I felt like I could breathe again.

Going back to school as a sophomore, I was dedicated to carry back a new trait with me – vulnerability. I wanted to tell my team, my sorority, my fellow nursing majors, and everyone in my life. I wanted to share my struggles, both past and present, and I wanted people to share theirs with me as well. Why should I hide something that is such a big part of my life when those closest to me could be struggling with the same exact things but are just too scared, like I once was, to share it? I started by opening up to my coaches. Leigh Sears, my soccer coach, asked if I would be willing to share my story with the team, and I instantly said yes, not just for my sake but for theirs too. I hoped I would spark a flame inside their soul and get them to speak up, and be vulnerable too. I shared my testimony with the team and not a dry eye left the room. Finally, I felt like I could breathe again.

Now in my senior year, I still value vulnerability. Nearly everyone who knows me knows my story. They know of my struggle with depression and anxiety. They know of my brother’s death. Yet, the most used attribute my friends and family have used to describe me is “strong”.  Strong because I now face my struggles head on, living life fully and abundantly. I have now learned to love wholeheartedly, speaking my truths and listening with an open ear to others.

My depression is and will always be my worst enemy, but my closest companion. No matter what I do or where I go, it follows me. However, no longer do I let it take over and I do not give up. I now know how hard depression can be to deal with but I now also know how amazing the moments feel when it is absent. The moments when I don’t feel that heaviness on my shoulders or inside of my chest is the reason why I don’t stop fighting. I am grateful that my depression influences me to appreciate the good days so much more. I’ve learned to ground myself in those moments while reminding myself that there are so many more to come.

So now, I encourage you to fight the stigma of mental health with me. Be strong, be vulnerable, be brave, and keep the faith.

THE HOPE ATHLETES’ JOURNAL MISSION STATEMENT
from creator Stephen Binnig

The mission of the Hope Athletes’ Journal is to give members of the Hope Athletics Community a medium where they can share their stories to relate to, understand, and appreciate coaches, players, prospective students, and fans beyond the game. My goal through this project is that those in and around our community will write vulnerable, principled, honest, and respectful stories that ultimately knit our college even closer together. If you or someone you know has a story that could be shared on the Hope Athletes’ Journal, please reach out to me via email at Stephen.Binnig@hope.edu.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, here are some resources both on and off campus:

Hope College Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): 616-395-7945

Hope College Campus Ministries: 616-395-7145

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673