Life Enrichment
An interview with pro athlete and inspirational writer Chamique Holdsclaw

An interview with pro athlete and inspirational writer Chamique Holdsclaw

Atlanta Dream basketball player and author talks about her battle with depression

Before she became a writer, Chamique Holdsclaw was a pro athlete in the WNBA who played one season with the Atlanta Dream in 2009. In 2000 she won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA at the Sydney Olympic Games, but during this time she was also battling depression. After seeking treatment, Chamique wrote about her experience. “By shedding light on a taboo subject, I hope to encourage people to seek mental healthcare and not be ashamed,” she says.

What inspired you to write your book, “Breaking Through: Beating The Odds Shot After Shot”?
The fact that people seem to always judge a book by its cover. I’ve fought a long, hard battle with depression and it hurt me that people didn’t understand. I had struggled with this, so I felt I could connect with people by taking them through my journey on and off the court.

What were some of the challenges you faced and what type of help did you seek?
I have been battling depression since I was 11 years old. I was in denial for so long, but after a suicide attempt in 2007, I finally realized I had a problem and needed to get help. Admitting this was the hardest thing to do. I had associated depression with weakness and I had to get over it quickly. I started seeing a psychiatrist and went on medication to help me with clinical depression.

What helped you to overcome your battle with depression?
I promised God after my suicide attempt that if He left me unscathed, I would get help and use my voice to help others. I was ashamed that I had tried to take my life and deal with it alone. I had friends and family who would have supported me, but I didn’t see it that way.

What do you do today to maintain a positive attitude? 
I don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m also blessed to have found my passion, and that’s helping others. The work I’m doing now feels better than any game winning shot I’ve ever made.

What initially drew you to the sport of basketball and did you always have a passion for it?
I always tell people basketball found me. I had just moved from the suburbs of New York with my grandmother. Luckily the basketball courts were right outside her window and she would let me play because she could see me. I enjoyed it from day one because it allowed me to be creative but it also served as a coping mechanism when my life was turned upside down. 

What are some of your favorite give-back moments?  
Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund and the Avon Breast Cancer Walk are two of the charities I’ve enjoyed working with. My favorite give-back moments are going to the shelters on Christmas and Thanksgiving and helping feed the homeless. My grandmother used to feed the homeless once a week at our church and it makes me feel connected with her spirit.

Did you always want to be an inspirational speaker?
Since I became a pro athlete in the WNBA in 1999, I’ve been speaking to young girls about self-esteem and a healthy lifestyle. There are so many initiatives that the WNBA partners with, so it allows us to spread the message. I’m actually very shy and fought against it for so long. People would always tell me I came across as very heartfelt and sincere. Finally in 2010 I started seeing it in myself. I’ve learned how powerful my voice is and how many people I can positively affect.

What do you do to stay healthy and active?
I believe in total health: mind, body and spirit. I work out everyday through running, basketball, CrossFit, Muay Thai and kickboxing. I meditate to stay balanced and I make sure I speak to my therapist at least once a week. I also eat very healthy.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
My college coach Pat Summitt said, “Tough times don’t last but tough people do.”

Are there any upcoming projects on the horizon?
I want to continue using my story to inspire others. I will continue to speak across the United States and advocate for mental health awareness. I’ve become a spokesperson for an amazing group called Active Minds that is changing the conversation about mental health. I’m also looking forward to getting back on the basketball court after an Achilles injury in 2010.