Emotionally Strong, Mentally Empowered

Photo by: Monica Salazar

It’s third down from the 25-yard line and the Pierce College football team is looking to hold its ground against Santa Barbara City College. Bodies are flying and colliding explosively. Amid the violent clashes, Brahmas’ defensive lineman Ron Young Jr., maintains a smile. The thought of going into battle would make many people tremble, but Young’s grin is a testament to his passion for life on the gridiron. Yet the normal activities of everyday life can strike fear into Young’s heart.

After the game, he gets into his car and the chilly feelings begin to set in. He says his apartment, only a half-mile from campus, feels like 100 miles with no exits as he slowly and cautiously makes his way home. Off the field, Young carries a weight that overwhelms his 260-pound frame. Emotions swirl around him like a brewing storm. The storm is anxiety disorder, and in a matter of moments the gentle, smiling giant can turn into a man rooted in chaos.

“My symptoms include chest pressure, and then my heart will start beating fast and I feel like I can’t breathe,” Young said. “My hands get numb, my feet get numb and you feel like you’re floating. It’s one of the scariest things that I have ever experienced in my life. But the thing is, you need to trick yourself into thinking that you are OK. Just keep thinking positive thoughts.”

Young has been dealing with anxiety disorder since he was a teenager. The attacks can come at any time, depending on the situation and his level of stress.

“The last time I experienced anxiety was when I was driving in late August, and a lot of my anxiety comes when I’m driving,” Young said. “It first started when I was in high school. My heart would start fluttering and I would get nervous.”

Young says he chooses not to use prescription pills like Xanax, Klonopin and Valium to treat his symptoms because such drugs can cause users to become physically dependent. He relies instead on holistic treatments and uses a phone app called Pacifica, which allows users to be coached through various meditation methods. The app tracks his progress by recording thoughts and feelings from day to day.

“Ever since I’ve used this app, it has helped me become more aware of when the symptoms are about to hit,” Young said.

Brahmas’ offensive lineman Matthew Perry opposes Young during practices. Perry said even though Young is dealing with anxiety, he rarely shows it on the field.

“Ron’s just a good happy guy,” Perry said. “He’s always smiling and cracking jokes. He’s a very caring person and he never seems worried about anything.”

Young’s father, Ron Young Sr., also played for Pierce and was part of the 1984 team inducted into the Brahmas’ athletic hall of fame. The elder Young said at first he was concerned about his son’s condition.

“I like to joke with Ron and say ‘What are all the anxiety attacks about? I’m paying all the bills,’” Ron Sr. said. “But it all started in his junior year when we thought he was having a cardiac arrest. We took him to the hospital and we found out that he was dehydrating because he was playing sports and not drinking a lot of water.”

Ron Sr. said his son’s problems went away for a while, but eventually the chest pains returned.

“Me, as a father, I would be nervous. And we found out that it wasn’t dehydration and there was nothing wrong with his chest,” Ron Sr. said. “We didn’t do an anxiety test, but we have come to find out he gets so excited from anxiety. I don’t know the reason for it, but I think it could just be a growing pain.”

However, Young’s situation is not unique, and there are ways to find treatment specially designed for athletes.

Jacob Jensen, assistant professor of sport and performance psychology at California State University, Northridge, is one of two sports psychologists on the CSUN campus who treat current student athletes.

“What I do is help athletes with performance,” Jensen said. “We do a lot of relaxation techniques, a lot of imagery, goal setting and motivational interventions.”

Jensen himself was a sports psychology patient when he was a tennis player at Utah University. During his senior season, Jensen developed a hitch in his serve that caused him to lose control of the ball. As a result he found his performance limited throughout most of his last season in college and was diagnosed with the ‘yips,’ a term which describes an uncontrolled jerk or movement. That hitch helped inspire Jensen to enter the field of sports psychology.

“I thought to myself that there needs to be some kind of training,” he said. “I thought if the mind is powerful enough to destroy performance, then it must be strong enough to help with it.”

That hitch helped inspire Jensen to enter the field of sports psychology.

“I thought to myself that there needs to be some kind of training,” he said. “I thought if the mind is powerful enough to destroy performance, then it must be strong enough to help with it.”

As for Young, he keeps his anxiety hidden and very few of his coaches know of the stress he experiences off the field. Defensive line coach John DiLuigi didn’t even find out about Young’s anxiety until recently.

“He has worked very hard to make himself just like everybody else out here, so you wouldn’t know,” DiLuigi said. “He tries to make sure that he fits in with everybody, and with everything that’s going on, and he does that 100 percent.” No matter what your passion is, you shouldn’t let a condition like anxiety stop you from doing what you love. It may be hard at first, but when you’ve got companies such as canna trading company willing to help anyone dealing with anxiety through the use of CBD products, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about for much longer. There is always a solution out there for whatever you are going through and it is important to know that you are not alone.

As Young continues to grow as a football player, he also continues to smile about his life. He doesn’t shy away from his feelings, and focuses instead on what he believes will make him successful. His anxiety may have an impact, but he does not let it define who he is as a man. His anxiety may have an impact, but it does not let it define who he is as a man.