This Self-Care Sunday, we will be discussing resilience, and how to overcome hardship when facing a major setback. We interviewed Enna Selmanovic, former NCAA Swimmer at University of Cincinatti. After suffering a traumatic accident and being medically disqualified from competing, Enna became a mental health adovcate for college athletes. Read below to hear Enna share her story, and inspire others with her passion for mental wellbeing.
How have you worked to advocate for mental health among college athletes?
As a former collegiate athlete and a true believer in the power of identity, the worlds of collegiate athletics and mental health collided frequently during my journey. I believe it is important to note that I sustained my own career ending injury my freshman year after a long and tough season. I was never able to compete again, rendering the words “it’s over” my new reality as I was medically disqualified. My niche and my ecosystem in a sense were shifting, I had to find a new normal, especially a new passion to fuel my life. I was suffering mentally myself but used my ability to advocate for others to help me get through my own struggles. With this in mind, I spent 3 years officially representing collegiate athletes on the national stage for the NCAA and continue to do so off-camera today. There I spent time devising legislation and standing up for the needs of athletes who were struggling in silence. I was lucky to have been provided with the platform to reach out to student-athletes of all kinds and to support them from the sidelines. I started with my teammates, remaining and avid member of the team, then working my way up to across campus efforts, starting programs to provide all students, including student-athletes the resources they need. Finally, the culmination of the work I put in shined through at the countless panels and presentations I sat on and lead, allowing others to hear what it truly meant to be a student-athlete struggling with mental health. I was able to be a small part in mandating all Division 1 institutions to provide departmental support as well as education to bring awareness to the topics at hand.
How do you define resilience?
To me, resiliency equates to elasticity. Think of a rubber band for instance, you add tension but it snaps right back. Now think of those around you who may not have a straight path to success, those with the ability to do so, bounce right back. Being resilient means finding any which way to reach the end goal. There’s no rush though, it’s at your own pace.
What are some ways you work through feeling stressed and anxious?
Communication & my tight knit circle. As I aged, I began to rely on others for healthy conversations that helped me get through stress and anxiety, in specific the physical manifestation of my anxiety. The first thing I do now when I’m stressed is reach out to my people & my soulmate by phone or text and take 5 deep breaths. My biggest fear in life is to be alone or to be forgotten. Reaching out to those I love helps remind me that I am neither of those things and that there is a way to get through whatever I face. Once I have my senses in check, I devise a plan. I am all about my planner. I need to write everything down and the only way I’ll remember to do anything is to carry around a pad of sticky notes. By holding myself accountable to my lists, plans and dreams, I know that stress and anxiety will begin to subside. Lastly, I have learned to say no more often. If you know me, I want to do a thousand things a minute and basically do everything known to mankind in one lifetime. This however is not easily accomplished – I don’t ever use the word impossible. By learning to prioritize and actively think about the choices I make, the “yeses” I distribute, I partake in my own well-being daily.
When experiencing a major set-back, how do you try to move forward? How did you overcome your injury and knowing that you were medically disqualified from swimming?
The quote, “things are as they are, we suffer because we imagined different” has stuck with me for a very long time and has evidently helped me get through “life”. Throughout the various major set-backs (I call them blessings in disguise) I’ve had, including overcoming my injury, I’ve had to shut my brain off when the negative thoughts clouded my judgement and instead remember that I must trust in advance what will only make sense in reverse. Whatever my path is, whatever my fate is, it is inevitable. There is no doubt in my mind that the obstacles I have faced have put me in the exact spot that I needed to be to move forward. By controlling my perspective, I am able to propel myself forward – there is no looking back on the what if’s. I have spent countless hours trying to conjure what could have been instead of spending time manifesting what was to be.
With this in mind, when I was told I could no longer swim, I had to take a moment to reflect back on what it was that drove me to swimming in the first place. I am the type of girl that does everything with passion or doesn’t do it at all, there is no half-assing things in my books. Once I gave myself an extended amount of time to grieve a very large piece of my identity (I struggled with this profusely and it wasn’t until those closest to me told me I needed to cut it out)
I began to search for something to fill the void that swimming and becoming medically disqualified left me with. I failed and stumbled many times until someone believed in me and my story. It was the people around me and the inequity I witnessed in the world of athletics that motivated me to ensure that no one else would ever feel the same way I did again. From that moment on, it was only up from there.
What makes you feel powerful and confident?
Realizing that the love I give to the world is reciprocated back to me in ways I never thought imaginable. When I embarked on this journey, I couldn’t help but remember that when I was younger, the only thing I ever wanted was to swim for a college team. I wanted to get a full ride scholarship to a Division 1 school, to return back to my club team with a Gatorade water bottle and a Nike backpack. Even though things didn’t end up how I wanted them to, I still did all of that. That’s crazy! There was a triad of days where I honestly wished that I didn’t wake up the next day but I still did. Why? Because there was a purpose greater than myself that needed fulfilling. That is what makes me feel powerful and confident daily, knowing that I am on this earth for a reason and have a life worth living. That’s something to smile about.