While establishing himself as one of Iowa’s top offensive linemen, Sean Welsh was struggling off the field.
Welsh, entering his senior season, revealed in a piece he wrote for Iowa’s athletics website Wednesday that he was diagnosed with depression. Welsh wrote that he first started dealing with depression symptoms when he was a redshirt freshman in 2014. He started nine games that season but was isolating himself from friends and family.
“As we progressed into the summer program, I had this inkling that something wasn’t right. I ate less and isolated myself from teammates. I spent more time asleep or in front of a TV than I did with people,” Welsh wrote.
“Football, the driving force for many years of my life, went from a source of purpose to a source of apathy. I started to feel a myriad of negative emotions: sadness, anxiety, dread and anger. They hit me like a bombardment from the moment I woke up to when I went back to bed. It was every dimension of terrible. And I kept wondering what was wrong.”
Welsh wrote that he visited with a therapist but, at that point, decided to “sweep (his) depression under the rug” until after the season. Things worsened entering spring practice in 2015, so he made the decision to step away from school and football for the time being.
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When I returned from winter break, all of the familiar symptoms resurfaced. The bottom line is that I didn’t care about anything at all. Then it got worse.
The week before spring break in 2015, the wheels really came off. I forgot about classes, missed a midterm and barely survived workouts. It quickly became a downward spiral. I remember a stretch when I didn’t leave my room for three days.
I hit the eject button, told Coach Kirk Ferentz I wouldn’t be able to be with the team that spring and left early to go home. It was a tough decision but it was the right call.
From there, Welsh returned to therapy, was given a formal diagnosis and began taking medication. Things got better and he returned to the team in the summer of 2015.
Welsh said “it hasn’t been smooth sailing” from there, but with help, he has been able to press on. All the while, he emerged as one of the better linemen in the Big Ten. Overall, entering his redshirt senior season, he has started 35 games for the Hawkeyes and earned various all-league honors.
Welsh, who recently shared his story with his teammates, said he is comfortable enough with his depression and its roots to share his story and let people know it’s OK to seek help.
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Here’s how he finished his piece:
I now know that my depression is genetic and that I will always have a predisposition to it. This isn’t the end of my relationship with depression but so far I’ve learned a lot about my condition.
First off, depression doesn’t discriminate. You can have everything working in your favor – a strong upbringing, a loving family, a promising future – and depression can turn it upside down. It can make your successes feel unimportant and your problems seem monumental. It made me feel empty, like I had nothing.
But it also galvanized me. It gave me a perspective that I never would have gained without it. Depression also taught me pure, visceral humility and that I need to be honest with myself and others about how I feel. Without the support of my family, Coach Ferentz and his staff, my teammates and my friends – I’m not sure I would’ve gotten off the mat.
Finally, and this is the most important thing I would like you to take away from this, if you think you suffer from depression, see someone. If you suspect a loved one suffers, get them the help they need. And if you know of someone struggling with depression be understanding and caring – you will make a world of difference.
Man, that’s great perspective from Welsh. We’ll be lucky enough to hear more from him when he is one of three player representatives for Iowa at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago next week.
For more Iowa news, visit HawkeyeReport.com.
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