GILBERT — Lyndsey Fennelly walks to the entrance of the stage of the Gilbert Excessive Faculty auditorium at 1 p.m. on a December day and appears into the group.
About 600 academics, college students and employees are in attendance as the previous Iowa State ladies’s basketball star will get prepared to start her particular presentation.
“I’ll cry,” Fennelly says to them. “I’ll chortle. All I’m asking is that you just hear higher than my children do, which gained’t require loads.”
Fennelly desires to ensure everybody within the room is listening. The subject, psychological well being, is necessary to her. That’s why she’s spent a lot time touring across the state speaking to varsities, teams and companies. For anybody that’s prepared or desires to listen to Fennelly’s story, she’s prepared to share it.
“I’m hopefully any individual folks can lean into if that makes this extra relatable than perhaps what they see within the media or on social media,” Fennelly mentioned.
Fennelly, one of many biggest level guards in Iowa State historical past, who spends time teaching highschool children, is sharing her experiences with psychological well being. Fennelly desires others to listen to her story, of coping with anxiousness and touchdown within the hospital twice, so that they study from it.
And extra importantly, she desires others to do what she’s doing — not be afraid to discuss in regards to the matter.
“It is so necessary that she’s taken this step into her life to not solely train basketball but additionally be an advocate for psychological well being,” mentioned Georges Niang, a former Iowa State star himself and good friend of Fennelly’s, “and discuss her journey and the way that may hopefully make things better.”
‘Then my world got here crashing down’
To the surface world, Fennelly had all of it.
Fennelly, who arrived at Iowa State as Lyndsey Medders, turned a star for the Cyclones ladies’s basketball staff by scoring 1,449 profession factors and tallying a then school-record 719 assists from 2003-2007. Fennelly was chosen by the Indiana Fever within the 2007 WNBA Draft.
Off the court docket, issues appeared simply as nice. Fennelly married Billy Fennelly, an assistant coach for the ladies’s basketball staff and head coach Invoice Fennelly’s son. She gave basketball classes to younger gamers all through the state.
“Then my world got here crashing down,” Fennelly mentioned.
Fennelly, who was consistently on the go, suffered what she describes as a manic episode and an entire breakdown in 2013. She was hospitalized for 15 days within the behavioral well being unit at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames.
She was in denial about her points. Of all folks, she could not be having psychological well being issues, she informed herself and her physician. She had all of it, had carried out all of it and was residing a very good life. So, she ignored what was really occurring and informed herself and her physician she was fantastic and did not want extra assist.
She was flawed.
Fennelly — who was elevating two children, had began a enterprise and started operating camps and a golf outing with Niang — reached one other breaking level in 2018. Throughout a visit with one other former Iowa State star, Kelsey (Bolte) Carper, Fennelly suffered one other manic episode and breakdown. Issues began spiraling uncontrolled as the 2 talked throughout the journey collectively in California. Fennelly, who wasn’t consuming a lot or sleeping usually as she consistently labored and went from one process to the following, was celebrating life one minute after which falling aside the following.
“I regarded again at her and mentioned with a quivering lip, I mentioned ‘Kelsey, I do not assume I needs to be right here anymore,”‘ Fennelly recalled. “She mentioned, ‘What do you imply? And I mentioned, ‘I do not know, one thing would not really feel good. Like, I do not be ok with myself, I do not assume I needs to be on Earth anymore. I do not deserve it. This world would not deserve me. I do not deserve my children. I do not deserve my husband. I do not deserve any of this.”’
Fennelly was put in a straight jacket and brought by ambulance to a medical middle at UCLA. She flew again to Iowa and as soon as once more checked into the Mary Greeley Medical Heart in Ames, this time for 21 days. By now, it was clear there was an issue.
“She’s at all times been a kind of those that survived on just a little quantity of sleep and she or he’s at all times been go, go, go, go, go,” Billy Fennelly mentioned.
That needed to change. Lyndsey Fennelly was inspired to see a therapist, get on medicines and reduce on her schedule. This time she listened and acquired the assistance she wanted.
Fennelly realizes a teachable second
As Fennelly stands in entrance of the group at Gilbert Excessive Faculty and talks about her second journey to the hospital, she will get emotional. She even cries, identical to she informed the viewers she would.
That second journey to the hospital modified every little thing. It was throughout that point that Billy introduced her a duplicate of “Individuals” journal. Singer Mariah Carey was on the quilt. Within the story, she shared her battle with bipolar dysfunction.
On the time of Fennelly’s second hospital keep, subjects like melancholy and anxiousness weren’t talked about as overtly as they’re in the present day. However Fennelly discovered one thing from the story. Carey, regardless of being one of the profitable singers ever, was going by way of issues that even extraordinary folks went by way of. And if she was prepared to share her story, why could not Fennelly?
“I acknowledged a possibility to assist others in my journey or in my restoration to easily simply change the narrative,” Fennelly mentioned.
If anybody understood the delicacy of the subject, it was Fennelly, who had her personal fears about how folks would react after they discovered of her hospital stays. There have been nonetheless so many destructive connotations that got here with psychological well being, she felt. So many who it was a tough matter for folks affected by it to deliver up or be prepared to handle so they may get assist. Fennelly was a primary instance.
A few weeks after she acquired out of the hospital in 2018, Fennelly referred to as Niang, who had gone on to play within the NBA and is now with the Philadelphia 76ers. He was the primary particular person exterior her household that she had informed about her hospital stays and what she had been going by way of.
“I used to be like, ‘Dang, I might by no means have thought that,'” Niang mentioned. “However, that is form of how it’s with all people.'”
The dialog was a turning level for Fennelly.
Niang eased it by joking that it defined why he routinely acquired emails in the course of the night time from Fennelly. However most significantly, he was accepting, understanding and helped normalize it. The decision was a aid for Fennelly, who determined to begin sharing her story with everybody. She posted about her experiences on Fb and Twitter. Fennelly began getting messages from followers and followers and invites to talk about her experiences.
“It has been tremendous natural,” Fennelly mentioned.
And tremendous standard.
Fennelly, who has carried out talks in particular person or nearly since 2018, estimates she’s spoken to over 10,000 folks. However she hopes the influence stretches far past these 10,000 folks, who might find yourself going dwelling and sharing their story with others. Billy Fennelly mentioned he routinely has those that come as much as him and test in on Lyndsey or point out they’ve heard her converse or seen one in all her posts.
“That is clearly one which’s very private for everyone however they should have one thing to take a look at and one thing to be like, ‘Yeah, I am not the one one,'” Billy Fennelly mentioned. “So, that is most likely the factor that makes me most proud.”
Lyndsey Fennelly’s displays are normally tailor-made to the group she’s speaking to. On at the present time at Gilbert, she talks to college students about making wholesome life selections by understanding and avoiding medicine and alcohol. She encourages them to get off their telephones and social media and encompass themselves with a powerful help system.
The aim is to know what triggers troubles with psychological well being and to acknowledge it is OK to ask for assist. Fennelly tells them to assist help one another. She additionally desires to alter the notion of psychological well being and, like Niang did for her, normalize it for others.
It is a message Gilbert principal Vic Vanderpool believes acquired by way of to the scholars and employees there.
“She’s attempting to eliminate that stigma round psychological well being and folks do have psychological well being circumstances and it’s OK and there is lot of individuals and you are not by your self,” Vanderpool mentioned. “I feel they only actually respect how sincere and susceptible she is. She simply says it like it’s. She’s form of a straight shooter and I feel children actually, actually respect that and join with that.”
Fennelly’s work is much from carried out. She’s additionally writing a e-book and continues planning to speak to extra teams. She nonetheless will get messages on social media. They’re not solely requests however generally follow-ups from individuals who have heard her converse and have questions.
Fennelly admits she’s not an skilled on the subject. She merely calls herself an experiencer. However Niang calls Fennelly an inspiration to him.
That is becoming, as a result of her husband seems at this life and this function as one thing she’s meant to do.
“It is a few form of calling,” he mentioned.
Tommy Birch, the Register’s sports activities enterprise and options reporter, has been working on the newspaper since 2008. He is the 2018 and 2020 Iowa Sportswriter of the 12 months. Attain him at email@example.com or 515-284-8468. Observe him on Twitter @TommyBirch.