Lyndsey Fennelly seems to have it all.
She is beloved as a former standout basketball player at Iowa State University. She is a successful businesswoman. She is the mother of two adorable children. And she’s married to Iowa State assistant basketball coach Billy Fennelly, who she’s been with since 2003, when she was a freshman “quietly dating the coach’s son. “.
Still, Lyndsey Fennelly will speak on a different topic Tuesday as the keynote speaker at the Story County Mental Health Expo. The free event will take place from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Memorial Union at Iowa State.
Fennelly will talk about her mental health journey at 7:30 p.m., followed by a Q&A.
“I was first diagnosed with a mental illness in 2013,” she told the Ames Tribune.
When she was diagnosed, she had thousands of LinkedIn contacts, Twitter followers and Facebook friends. “The last thing I was going to consider was telling anyone that I just had a 15-day behavioral stay at Mary Greeley,” Fennelly said.
She threw it under the rug, she said, and just planned to sleep better. She didn’t want to take medicine. She didn’t think she needed treatment.
Fennelly said she mistakenly associates mental illness with negative things she would see in the news, such as a deranged shooter or a suicidal person.
“I feel like the happiest mentally ill person I know. So I didn’t want to have that label,” she said. “I recognized that I had a platform, but honestly, my ego was like, ‘I’m not going to tell anybody there’s anything wrong with me.'”
After:Former Iowa State star Lyndsey Fennelly has become a public advocate for mental health awareness
Georges Niang helped Lyndsey Fennelly go public with her mental illness
Five years have passed. She and Billy had two children. They have built businesses together.
They were on the road to success.
“People from the outside who watched must have said, ‘She got it all,'” she said.
In 2018, the whole thing broke up and Fennelly ended up in the hospital for the second time, this one for 21 days.
“I had this pulse that if I talked about it maybe it would help someone else. And in the end it would also help me because this time I had to take the drugs, otherwise. This time I had to go to therapy every two weeks, otherwise.
” What was that ? Or ? I didn’t know it, but I didn’t want to go there with my family. Like, would Billy have left me if I hadn’t taken it seriously this time?
About a week after Fennelly was released from her three-week hospital stay, she decided to call another Iowa State basketball star, Georges Niang.
“Georges and I plan a golf outing and camp together, and we stay in touch a lot, especially in the spring,” she said.
Fennelly had been without her phone during her hospital stay, so he asked her what had happened.
“That’s when I started breaking down a bit. I was like, ‘Well, I was hospitalized with a mental health issue,'” she said.
There was a silence of a few seconds, it seemed long. Fennelly thought it was over; he would not be interested in continuing their golf camp and event.
But then Niang said exactly what Fennelly needed to hear: “That’s why you’re sending me these crazy emails at 2 a.m..”
“He totally normalized it. At that time, I remember thinking that if Georges was still willing to look at me as I am and join me in this event and support me, I would tell anyone, “said she declared. “It was the power of his response.”
Fennelly had been embarrassed by her diagnosis for years. She had never accepted it.
“But his answer gave me the strength to be like, ‘Let’s go,'” she said.
A few weeks later, Fennelly posted informally that he had been hospitalized with a mental illness. Over the past four years, she has spoken to multiple audiences, both virtually and in person, offering an “organic narrative” of her situation.
“It’s normal to ask for help. It’s okay to admit that you’re not perfect. It’s okay to take medication and talk to a therapist. It’s not a sign of weakness,” she said.
Lyndsey Fennelly found she couldn’t recover from mental illness
Living in the world of athletics, it was hard for Fennelly to accept that she couldn’t recover from her illness.
Fennelly has shared her story with over 13,000 people since becoming a mental health advocate. Her website lyndseyspeaks.com connects her with schools and other organizations.
“From the outside, it didn’t make sense to people, and I think that’s where people grabbed my story. Like, ‘If Lyndsey could have a hard time, maybe we could talk too what I’m fighting with,” she said. “I don’t want it to sound pompous, because I don’t think I’m any more special than the next person. But I recognize that many people know my surname. Many people know that I played basketball here.
Fennelly herself was inspired by the story of someone who seemed to have it all. It wasn’t a famous sports personality – it was pop diva Mariah Carey.
People magazine which was published in April 2018, while Fennelly was in the hospital, featured a story about Carey opening up about his mental health struggles.
“That’s what flipped the switch for me,” Fennelly said. “I didn’t want to accept my problems and then run and hide.”
Fennelly’s passion for sharing her story with others who might need encouragement to face theirs will be part of her keynote speech at the Story County exhibit.
More than 20 community and university resource providers will also have kiosks offering information about the services they offer.
The free event will offer door prizes, snacks, a scavenger hunt and free parking at the Memorial Union parking ramp.
Ronna Faaborg covers business and the arts for the Ames Tribune. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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