Volleyball was all I knew and all I ever wanted to do. My mom was incarcerated when I was 13 and hadn’t been apart of my life since I was 9; but she was, and still is, the most beautiful person I have ever known. So it made sense to me that when I found out she was a volleyball player in high school, that I wanted to do that exact same thing. I was driven to find any way possible to be closer to her so I started playing my freshman year. My mission at the time was to get so good that I would receive a full-ride scholarship to a four year university somewhere. But what I hadn’t accounted for was the attacks from the enemy that would lead me into the depression and anxiety that I would struggle with throughout the years to come.
Depression is something I was so ashamed of having. Even though I had it for years, I never communicated to anyone and it became something that led me down a path towards relentless sadness. And no matter how hard I tried to be a better volleyball player, a better friend, a better student, a better daughter, a better sister; none of that cured me from feeling so alone, that I was consumed with anxious thoughts and fits of panic. I have spent the last year in endless healing whilst growing closer to God, and one thing I learned was that you can’t perform your way out of depression.
Depression is a disease that manifests in darkness, lies, and isolation. It makes you believe that not only are you the only one who understands the pain that you’re in, but also that it would only burden the people around you if they knew.
So as someone that strived to make people happy in spite of my own mental health, I drove myself insane carrying on with lies and fake smiles so as to protect others from the truth. It was exhausting. And no matter how much I desired to have genuine relationships with the teams I was on or the communities of people at school, because it was so hard for me to lie about how I was, I drew away from everyone. The pretending overwhelmed me in a way that pushed me further into my depression, and it seemed to be intertwining itself in my identity. I wore a mask that seemed to be shackled onto my face, I thought I would never feel the freedom to be completely honest.
I got what I had worked so hard to receive.
I got the full-ride scholarship that would take me thousands of miles away from the place that I had experienced so much sadness. I flew all the way to Louisiana, trying to run away and start anew. I had my own apartment, was playing for a Division 1 program, and found a community of believers that I could find refuge in; yet still, I was depressed, broken, and afraid of my own thoughts. I had finally gotten the “success” I prayed for, but I couldn’t shake all of the behaviors I had grown so accustomed to doing. So I would lie, isolate myself, give away enough of the truth but hold back parts that I knew would only lead to questions and unwanted vulnerability. ”How could this be happening? I have everything I have ever dreamed of having, and I am still crying myself to sleep. God, where are you? I feel so alone, and you said you would be there for me.” These were all the things that I was begging God to answer, and when I didn’t hear Him I chose to stop being present and started skipping my classes. I would then be promptly kicked out of Louisiana Tech the following summer after my second Spring season there.
A new season.
I was no longer a scholarship collegiate athlete, and I was drenched in shame for not having succeeded. Yet I was never alone and God didn’t allow me to wade in darkness longer than I could handle. At the same time that I had found out I wasn’t going back to Louisiana, I was in an Internship for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Volleyball. Under the guidance, community, healing, and love that I received from this internship I was able to rediscover myself as a DAUGHTER OF A KING that can claim victory in being His.
Scripture says: "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir." Galatians 4:4-7
To break that down... God sent his son Jesus to redeem us and bring us into the family of God. Because of what Jesus has done, we are daughters of God. And because God is King of the universe, that makes us daughters of the KING. We are not a slave to God or his law, but a daughter to Him. And this means are also "heirs" and will receive an inheritance from our Father. This means we are safe because our Dad is the king, we are loved like daughters, and we have so much purpose and hope!
I came to understand these truths and it changed me. Throughout the summer with FCA, I sat with people that would shower me with possibilities and next steps in discovering what God can be using me for in the days/weeks/months/years to come. Throughout my journey, I have experienced setbacks both mentally and spiritually; but I have never felt like it couldn’t be conquered with trusting in God’s sovereignty over my life.
Depression is serious. I needed community, counseling, and time soaking in Jesus' truths to get through my darkest times. I encourage anyone who is suffering from depression to seek those three things just as I did and come out of isolation.
I still have days and nights that scare me and make me want to retreat into the old ways of dealing with my emotions and overwhelming lies, but because I know how accessible of a God that I serve and I’ve experienced the strength of His love for me it has made it so much easier for me to run into His arms. And to let Him fight for me after so many years of striving to be the cure for my situation.
Scripture that encouraged me in my journey:
Romans 8:18 "For I consider that our current sufferings are not worth comparing to the GLORY that will be revealed in us."
Isaiah 54:10 “'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you"
Daniel 3:26-27 "So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisors crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them."
Nani Leui-Saole Nomura
Hey! I’m Nani (pronounced naw-knee), and I kind of played volleyball at Louisiana Tech University from 2015-2017. I was in school studying Psychology and am now pursuing a career in law enforcement, looking forward to spending the next years serving people as my profession and seeking justice for those in need of it. I love reading, I think Forrest Gump is the best movie ever made, and I can juggle pretty well on a good day.