If I could put on my best dress and take Jimmy Garoppolo by the hand, I’d dance with him to some good ol’ John Mayer.
Slow dancing in a burning room, to be exact.
You see, that song kinda makes sense for both of us these days. Jimmy’s on the IR, nursing a little calf injury, taking more licks for his time on the bench from the ungrateful fans who can’t seem to let go of the glory days. It’s like they’ve never experienced any adversity in their lives, and so they dump on a quarterback via their social platforms only to hear silent airwaves back.
It’s almost as if people who have bigger and better things going on don’t have time to interact with hate…wow, what a concept!
I’m not going to lie; I used to take the Jimmy G hate too personally. I’ve been one of his loudest supporters. I have a tattoo under my left cheek absolutely dedicated to the 2019 season and most people on Twitter know and/or follow me for that exact reason. I’ve inspired people to block me without ever having interacted with them. And honestly, I used to think that was pretty sad because most of these peeps would probably really like me if we ever sat down for a beer together.
I’ll take y’all back to a time when I used to write for Sports Illustrated, something I swore dreams were made of (until a few peeps online ripped me apart for sharing that notion, lol).
“If it bleeds, it leads!” my journalism professor used to shove down my throat.
You know, when you’re stuck in a traffic jam and you cruise by a terrible accident. 9 times outta 10, you’re gonna slow down to stare at the poor souls responsible for the wreck. If there’s a stretcher, you may even come to a complete halt. As a society, we thrive on the drama—as long as it’s not ours, that is.
I worked extremely hard to write for a larger platform like SI. I hustled to get all my own interviews with actual Hall of Fame athletes prior to my signing, and some people decided to slander my name as if I didn’t deserve everything I had grinded for. Boom. I took the punches.
It’s crazy, when you experience real life physical abuse, you'd think that online harassment wouldn't really affect you the same way. I saw a tweet today from Mina Kimes, someone I look up to in the sports industry.
She said, “Seems like people who say stuff like ‘twitter doesn’t matter/isn’t real’ tend to be the ones most obsessed with this app.” I’ll admit, I’ve said that an insane amount of times. It must be some kind of coping mechanism because I truly had to talk myself down after a few online attacks that really hurt my soul.
One of which a former friend pulled the whole “this you?” thing on me without even reaching out to see what the whole incident really was about. The sad part, to me, is that I used to work for this fella. He even had my cell phone number. And rather than text or call me to ask what the dealio was, he fed the Twitter mob a fat piece of meat with my head on it.
I lost a lot of followers that day. My heart broke because I was painted in a disgusting light that just wasn’t me. It’s taken me a while to reflect on that moment and put into words just how much it tore me down. I threw my phone across the room and screamed at my then boyfriend (now fiancé ♥️) that I wanted to quit the sports industry because so many of my “friends” turned their backs on me over a false narrative.
And I nearly jumped off my damn balcony because of it.
Sure, Mina’s got a point. I tried to convince myself for months that Twitter wasn’t real. But, the reality of the situation is that every bit of pain I was feeling over that loss was real. I wanted to close my eyes and make it all disappear. No matter how hard I tried, it wouldn’t go away.
My dream job morphed into my worst nightmare.
So, I took a break from it all. I had a talk with my former SI boss and we both decided it was best for me to focus on other things. I walked away from what I thought was my end-all career and it crushed every bit of me.
I still think about it and cry, actually. Thankfully, not for the same reasons anymore. I cry happy tears instead. Because had it not been for that blessing in disguise, I wouldn’t be riding my own little IR bench in Italy alongside my fiancé, awaiting a trip to London this week to announce my shiny, new position in sports.
Side note: it’s a pretty, pretty big deal.
Anyhoo, to tie this all up with a red and gold little bow, I’d like to point something out that, at the time, I hadn’t realized. The headlines were bad, but the people I lost along the way were mere puppets, really. Like that time I finally moved on from my toxic ex boyfriend, the not-so-great peeps finally moved on from me. I guess it took a landslide for me to finally see their true colours.
And me, being the sensitive soul I tend to be, probably needed that juice cleanse more than I even knew in that moment.
I had big dreams of being the 49ers sideline reporter one day. Let’s be real, though. My schtick doesn’t necessarily fit that vibe.
I know I’m meant to shine in a role that allows me to be every bit of myself. Not some curated cookie-cutter version who has to please the masses around me. I simply get to be me.
Isn’t that truly the dream?
I tweeted today about World Mental Health day because just over five years ago, I hit my rock bottom after nearly dying in a cornfield. My reckless self drove off a road at 120km/hour in hopes of pressing the permanent pause button on my life. I was the accident that people drove by and stopped to gawk at.
Jeez, what a foreshadowing of what was to come in the online world.
My depression and anxiety took me to darker places than I can even begin to type. And since I’m trying to avoid the whole “if it bleeds, it leads” thing, I’ll paint you a slightly brighter picture: if it survives, it shines, if you will.
I am that survivor.
I’ve broken down so many of my own barriers to get to where I am today and while I let a lot of my emotions overcome me daily, I think I’ve finally found my voice in a world filled with very cluttered background noise. A whole lotta Nickelback, basically (jk, I love me some Canadian rock bands).
Yep, Jimmy G and I may be dancing in a burning room. But damn, it feels great to be this alive again, baby!
Here’s my full circle moment: tonight, I received a message from one of my followers who didn’t jump ship back in April. He’s been a gem in my life on multiple occasions and continues to make me smile, even as I type this.
He asked my consent on posting a written piece to his social media. Something surreal happened when I read it. I realized, that just like every athlete I had ever interviewed, I was the heroine of this piece. I was the inspiration.
Scratch that. I am the inspiration.
After sharing my vulnerable heart this morning about my own mental struggles in the past, my DMs exploded with a plethora of loving messages from beautiful souls who have in some way experienced the same kind of pain I had gone through, too. Each message, I patched onto a giant blanket of hope to keep me safe and warm on the not-so-great mental days.
I guess Mina was right. Those who pretend social media isn’t real are probably battling their own demons and insecurities, trying to justify how something they love so much can’t hurt them.
I adore so many people I’ve met online. The interactions I shared today are more real than a lot of the ones I’ve had IRL. And I’m not ashamed to admit that back when I was a certified Twitter addict, I tried to shove the unwanted baggage under a bed that simply didn’t exist.
Like Jimmy Garoppolo, I’ve had some bad press. I deal with some meanies daily, but the reality is, most people who decide to put others down are really attacking you over some ugly version they see in themselves and are too afraid to confront in their own mirror.
You can choose to engage or you can simply ignore it.
I’ve decided to focus my efforts on the beauty around me instead. And let me tell y’all, it’s made ALL the difference. My mental health may not be where I’d like it to be, and that's okay. I’ve finally found a group of sunflowers who want to share positivity, kindness, empathy, and even a sprinkling of heartache, too.
You are what you put out into this world. Be it online, at the coffee shop, or even in your wildest daydreams.
If you’re going to make people stare at you in that traffic jam, make sure it’s to see you dancing in the rain, smiling so big, those passing cars don’t have a reason to slow down.
And Jimmy, if you ever want to tango, I’ve got a really pretty red dress I can wear.
Just ask Twitter 😉
PS—if you EVER are feeling down and out, my DMs are open. It’s okay to not be okay. We all fall down sometimes; just be sure to rebound harder when you get back onto the court.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline (United States)
Phone: 800-273-8255 (available 24/7)
Support for deaf people and those with hearing loss: 800-799-4899
Online chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ (available 24/7)
Crisis Text Line
Text: HOME to 741741 (available 24/7)
The Veterans Crisis Line
This service is available to anyone, even those not registered or enrolled with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Phone: 800-273-8255 and press 1 (available 24/7)
Text: 838255 (available 24/7)
Online chat: http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat (available 24/7)
The Trevor Project
This service provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ youth via hotline, online chat, texting, and an online support center:
Phone: 866-488-7386 (available 24/7)
Text: START to 678678 (available 24/7)
Online chat: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now/ (available 24/7)
SAMHSA’s National Helpline (Substance Abuse)
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) national helpline offers confidential treatment referrals in both English and Spanish to people with mental health conditions, substance use disorders, or both.
Phone: 800-662-4357 (available 24/7)
Support for deaf people and those with hearing loss: 800-487-4889 (available 24/7)
RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline
Phone: 800-656-4673 (available 24/7)
Online chat: https://bit.ly/31L6uGM