My name is Julia Gagliardi and I am now an alumni lacrosse player from Keiser University. I just graduated with my Bachelor's Degree in Biomedical Sciences and tonight I played in my final college lacrosse game. Tonight when the game ended, even though we lost in the national semi-final, it finally hit me with immense emotion that I finally made it. I have a college degree and I played three years of college lacrosse. I feel as though it may seem to be just another college athlete that's graduated, but the experience I had in my senior year at Keiser was far from ordinary. For the first time in my life, I experienced depression and anxiety. I experienced emotional distress and pain beyond anything I could have imagined. I experienced suicidal thoughts. I went through the lowest time in my short 22 years of life. I had no clue how to handle any of it. I had no clue how to act okay when deep inside I was fighting this invisible war that no one could see. My family and best friends were 1,000 miles away back in New Jersey, and I felt so alone and suffocating in my own thoughts. I'm going to tell you the reason why I am able to right this email to you right now. I'm going to tell you the reason I was able to keep fighting and keep holding on when I thought I had nothing left to live.
I am so beyond fortunate and beyond thankful to still be alive today. I can genuinely say without a doubt, that along with a handful of teammates, my coaches single handedly saved my life. Nights where I wanted to take my own life, I called them; I texted them; I reached out. They comforted me. They guided me. They gave me the strength to keep going. They gave me that breath of fresh air when I was under water for too long. They allowed me to feel safe and comfortable confiding in them. They never let me lose sight of my goals and they never let me give up. They didn't let me quit school. They didn't let me quit lacrosse. Most importantly, they didn't let me quit on life. What I thought was going to be the death of me, turned out to be my saving grace, and I would have never been able to see that perspective if it wasn't for my two lacrosse coaches.
I'm not sure if your organization recognizes coaches for anything, but I want to recognize them. I want the work they do to have a light shed on it. Mental health is all about awareness and shedding a light on such a dark and seemingly untouchable topic. I have no shame in admitting the things I have gone through because they have made me the strong, resilient, fearless person I am today. My coaches have gone to numerous coaching seminars where they learn more and more about how to be better coaches and how to help their student athletes succeed on and off the field. They have both helped me succeed on and off the field. They helped me win my fight. As I move on and close this chapter of my life, I will be ready for anything life has to throw at me. I am ready to carry the torch and help change peoples' lives the way they have changed mine. I will forever be thankful for this experience and for college lacrosse. Without them, I whole-heartedly believe I would no longer be on this Earth. Thanks to them, my life is just beginning with so many opportunities at my feet waiting to be conquered.
Keep doing what you're doing and keep spreading awareness about mental health. Keep educating coaches the way you do because it is saving and changing lives everyday. Thank you for giving me your time to read my story. I also give you permission to use my story in any way you'd like. I want people to know the importance of reaching out and the impact that positive people can have on your life. I want the stigma to end and I want every student, athlete, person, to be able to be as fortunate as me and write a letter about how they overcame their mental sufferings. Life can get ugly and so immensely painful sometimes, but we truly are never alone. Thank you so much again for your time and the work you do every day!