After speaking at the WSU 5th Annual Allen Holmes Diversity Symposium Sept. 18, former WNBA player, three-time NCAA champion, Chamique Holdsclaw revealed a darker side to her story of success.
On the surface, she seemed a dedicated face and successful athlete who’s seemed to be in control, but underneath is a constant battle with mental health and anxiety.
As the keynote speaker of the event, Holdsclaw elaborated on her personal struggle and diagnosis with Bipolar disorder. After a long and tremulous fight with depression, mood swings and insomnia, she now spreads awareness about the issue to college students and athletes.
“Chamique has been authentic to the public about her struggles with mental illness, and in sharing her story, she has been helping countless people to understand, recognize and thrive everyday,” Weber State Mental Performance Coach Riley Jensen said.
Under the direction of legendary coach Pat Summitt, Holdsclaw led an illustrious career. Deemed by many as the “female Michael Jordan,” she was the number one pick for the 1999 WNBA draft, started in the all-star league, received the Rookie of the Year award and won a gold medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Despite her achievements however, Holdsclaw said, “the story that I am most proud of is my journey of resilience and perseverance.”
After being separated from her parents, both who suffered from alcoholism, Holdsclaw was exposed to extreme change and loss at an early age. She eventually moved in with her grandmother and discovered her love for the game of basketball.
“I learned to take out all of my frustrations with my family and things I was going through on that basketball court,” Holdsclaw said. “It became my drug and my coping mechanism because that was the one thing I could control.”
Throughout her college and professional career, Holdsclaw wavered between elation and despair. After years of nonstop victory and coaching, she couldn’t help but feel disconnected from the world around her.
“I became a professional ‘stuffer’. All emotions, anger and everything that I was feeling I always tucked away. I had to be perfect,” Holdsclaw said.
This detachment worsened as time progressed. In 2013, Holdsclaw was arrested on five federal counts, facing 130 years of imprisonment. She was released on $100,000 dollar bond.
“All I had to do was open up my mouth and say that I was going through these things and couldn’t cope,” Holdsclaw said. “But because of sports and being coached and told that I’m great for so long and people catering to me, I never wanted to seem weak.”
Now with the correct medication and therapeutic help, Holdsclaw has directed her attention to young athletes and students who may have similar experiences with mental illness.
“Approximately between the ages of 18 and 25 is the time when, neurologically, if a mood disorder is going to show up for the first time, this is when it would show up,” Director of the Weber State Counseling and Psychological Services Center Dianna Abel said.
The Counseling and Psychological Services Center is dedicated to providing help to those experiencing stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health-related issues.
“If you or a friend is dealing with this, there is no shame in wanting to be better,” Holdsclaw said.
To schedule an appointment or learn more about the resources available, you can visit the center’s website at https://www.weber.edu/CounselingCenter/ or call 801-626-6406