Kya Enos of the University of Maine softball team connects with a pitch during a game earlier this season in Orono. The junior from Massachusetts is among the key players for the Black Bears after learning to cope with a mental health disorder. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

Kya Enos was sitting in statistics class during the second semester of her freshman year and was struggling.

“I was having a meltdown,” said the 20-year-old Enos, a junior who plays on the University of Maine softball team. “I didn’t know what it was. I couldn’t make it through class. I got up and left. I was crying.”

She went to the New Balance Field House, where she confided in UMaine athletic trainer Orla Curran, who works with the softball team.

“I said I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I had reached my breaking point and couldn’t take this any more,” Enos said.

“I had started to realize that I needed help. I was going to have to face reality.”

Enos wasn’t sleeping or eating enough and she was partying too much. Her grades were suffering as she was skipping classes, or napping in some that she did attend. She was in a toxic relationship with her boyfriend that was consuming her life. During a night of drinking, she punched herself in the face and gave herself a black eye.

She admitted contemplating taking her own life.

“But I didn’t want to leave my mother [Michelle] and my teammates. I didn’t want them blaming themselves [for not doing more to save me],” she said.

Softball has been one of her passions since she was 5 years old, but there were days she didn’t want to go to softball practice.

However, with professional intervention and the support of her coaches, trainers and teammates, Enos is living with her diagnosis while serving as a key member of the UMaine softball team.

Her aim is to let people know that many student-athletes, women in particular, are dealing with mental health issues. She wants them to know that it’s OK to be vulnerable and to seek help.

It was a difficult freshman year for Enos.

“After I hit my first home run, coach [Mike] Coutts called me over. I thought he was going to congratulate me. But he told me that my grades weren’t good and I needed to bring them up to stay on the team,” Enos said.

Coutts and assistant coach Jordan Fitzpatrick had considered kicking Enos off the team, but they realized something wasn’t right with her.

“She didn’t understand why she was behaving the way she was. We knew we had to get her help,” Coutts said.

Enos resisted counseling initially, but eventually realized that it was a necessary part of her treatment.

“I didn’t want to spend time telling someone about myself. I just wanted them to tell me what I needed to do,” Enos said.

Enos underwent baseline testing to assess brain function, which doctors said was compromised by several concussions she suffered playing sports prior to attending UMaine.

When she returned to UMaine for her sophomore year (2019-20), Curran directed her to Dr. Anthony Podraza.

Enos said she felt comfortable with the neuropsychologist, who diagnosed her with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and borderline personality disorder. She also was found to have a learning disability and an alcohol use problem.

According to the Mayo Clinic, borderline personality disorder affects the way people think and feel about themselves and others, and causes self-image issues and difficulty managing emotions and behavior. It comes with an intense fear of abandonment or instability and a pattern of unhealthy relationships.

People with borderline personality disorder also often exhibit inappropriate anger, impulsiveness and frequent mood swings that push others away even though there is a desire to have loving and lasting relationships.

The diagnoses helped Enos start making sense of things. She is an only child whose parents divorced when she was 11.

“I was a daddy’s girl and I didn’t understand why he left. It turned to anger,” she said.

After seeing Podraza, Enos also met with Kim Walker, a social worker at Northern Light Health, for counseling.

Teammate Emily Reid, her closest friend, understands why Enos was reluctant to get help at first.

“She is a strong, independent person and she probably felt that was a sign of weakness,” Reid said.

The diagnosis and counseling have done wonders for Enos, who has since opened up to Reid and other teammates about her struggles. She also ended the toxic relationship with her former boyfriend, who transferred from UMaine.

Her grades have improved dramatically as she has been on the Dean’s List the last two semesters. On the field, the speedy left fielder from Taunton, Massachusetts, is batting .284 for UMaine with a team-leading 10 stolen bases.

“She is a different person now,” said Reid who added that Enos has always been a “caring person who will do anything for anyone.”

In February, Coutts asked Enos if she would write a letter detailing her situation. He believed it could be cathartic for her and also might help others who are dealing with similar issues.

“She never hesitated. She said yes right away,” Coutts said.

In her letter, Enos wrote, “I’ve learned that being truthful and vulnerable have been crucial parts of my healing process. Over time, I have found strength in accepting my journey for what it is and what it will become, and I encourage you to do the same.”

She admitted finding therapy frustrating initially.

“I hated every second of it,” Enos said. “It was so emotionally draining and exhausting, but as the sessions went on, I realized that the more honest and open I was, the more my therapist was able to help me.”

She stressed the importance of having plenty of support during the course of her treatment.

“There is always someone who will listen, always someone who cares, and always someone who wants to help,” said Enos, who is thankful for all the help she has received.

“My story and my healing is a work in progress,” Enos said. “I’ve come a long way, but I still have a lot to go, so much more to accomplish, and so much time to become the girl I’ve always dreamed of being.”