Hi I’m Emily and welcome to my blog!
Over the last few months my client base has expanded and I have been on the road traveling quite a bit. I am fortunate enough to work with people, teams and athletes all over the country and as things have been expanding so have my conversations about how I got into this line of work. I thought it would be a great time to go a bit deeper into how I landed on this unique line of work and the formation of my business, Perrin Wellness and Performance.
The truth is I grew up in and around sport. My Dad was a college basketball coach at the University of Virginia for the first 10 years of my life and has a PHD in Sport Psychology. Some of my earliest childhood memories are running around University Hall (which sadly no longer exists) at UVA and going to team practices. Even after leaving college basketball he has continued to work with some of the best athletes in the United States. His career has taken him across multiple professional leagues including the NBA, MLS, NWSL and to two World Cups with the US Men’s National Team. From a very young age this was my life. I knew there was another side to sport that included the mental and emotional world of an athlete.
Following my Dad’s footsteps I spent my first year of college playing soccer at the University of Vermont before I transferred back to finish my career and degree at UVA. My college career was anything but spectacular and one that was ridden with anxiety and injury. The truth is I’d always struggled with anxiety, panic attacks and bouts of serious depression since I was a little kid. I entered college already having so many issues with my own mental health and well-being and had spent part of my junior year in high school in an adolescent psychiatric facility. Being a college athlete ten years ago in a time when we didn’t really talk about mental health didn’t help. I felt like most days I was living consumed by my anxiety and panic and that had a direct impact on my physical health and ability to perform. To date, at age 31, I have had two knee surgeries, one hip surgery and suffered an L4/L5 Pars Fracture in my spine. But I certainly didn’t help myself out in the way that I dealt with my mental health. I put my head down and stuffed it, I drank and partied way too much and I never took rest or sleep seriously. Now that I think about it, to simply play four years at the collegiate level at one of the best programs in the nation was a miracle.
When I graduated college I had zero desire to continue playing as my body and my mind were completely shot. I got straight into coaching, thinking this is what I wanted to do with my life and became an assistant coach at the University of Pennsylvania. I absolutely loved Philadelphia, loved my friends and loved coaching. But after a few seasons went by I realized that what I actually loved about coaching wasn’t the X’s and O’s of soccer. It was the people, the relationships and my athlete’s mental and emotional well being that lit my soul on fire. What I also came to realize was that just because you move to a new city and attempt to start a new life doesn’t mean your problems don’t follow you. My anxiety and panic followed me and so did a host of continued dysfunctional coping mechanisms like heavy drinking, binge eating, and excessive exercising. I continuously put my own health on the back burner and tried to out run it.
After my third season at Upenn I left and moved back to Charlottesville to reroute and have what I like to call my quarter life crisis. In an attempt to continue my pattern of forging ahead and acting like I had it all figured out I took a generic sales job with a company that I wasn’t passionate about and relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina. I was in a new city with very few friends, didn’t enjoy my work at all and decided to enter a new relationship that in hindsight was not a healthy move and ended poorly.
What you run from will persist. Insert an immense amount of anxiety and panic attacks.
But this time wasn’t like the times in highschool, college or as a young college coach. My panic attacks ruled my life. If anyone has experienced a panic attack or even panic disorder you know that your body lives on high alert and you feel incredibly “strung out” all the time. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t leave the house to go to the grocery store. Eventually I was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric center in February of 2018. It was the worst 6 days of my life and I thank God every day I made it out alive because I wasn’t sure that I would.
When I was released, I went back to Charlottesville to regroup with my Mom and Dad. I had to take a really hard look at myself in the mirror because I was convinced that if I didn’t tackle this head on I was not going to be around much longer. A few days after being home I was still in very bad shape and basic functions like showering and brushing my teeth were a massive struggle. When it comes to severe mental health we don’t talk enough about how hard the most basic human functions can be. When you can’t get up to simply change your clothes or just brush your teeth you feel an immense amount of shame and despair ON TOP of what you’re actually feeling. I was still barely sleeping, having night sweats and trying to detox off several medications the rehab center had put me on. I had lost almost 12 pounds in 10 days.
Yet somewhere in there, I remember very clearly thinking “Emily go put your yoga clothes on and go take a yoga class. Even if you just sit on your mat the whole time and don’t move, just do it. It’ll be good for you.”
I’m not sure where it came from or why all of sudden it came to me.
It was a slower yoga class and I remember just starting to breathe and move. I think I kept my eyes closed for the majority of the class as I took each cue one step at a time from the teacher. I got to Savasana and I remember wanting to crawl out of my skin but her words kept telling me to “just stay, just be” and so I did that. I peeled myself up from my mat and I remember thinking… “I did it.” For the first time in months I felt like I had actually accomplished something. My fear, my anxiety, my panic hadn’t stopped me. I had felt it and it was present but it didn’t stop me. At that moment I knew that I needed to keep coming back.
I got on a yoga mat nearly every day. I downloaded a meditation app and started meditating even though I had no idea what I was doing. Now that I do, I know that someone in my state should not actually be meditating, but I had no direction. I started researching Mindfulness and Breath Work and taking random courses online.
A couple months into these practices I noticed a shift in myself. And not necessarily the amount of anxiety I was having because I was still having a lot of anxiety. I will never sell that these practices make anxiety go away. They don’t. But they allowed me to see my anxiety more clearly and to relate to it in different ways. As Swami Satchitananda said “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” These practices were helping me learn how to surf.
This is how I landed on the work that I do.
The practices of Mindfulness, Meditation, Breath Work and Yoga are so near and dear to my heart. They spoke to me, they healed me and ultimately they saved my life. This is what I want to bring to the world.
From that moment forward I have dedicated my time and my energy to bringing this work to the athletic community. I completed my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training, Dukes Integrative Health Coaching program, and spent an entire year studying Mindfulness Meditation with former Buddhist Monk and now Meditation teacher Sean Fargo. Eventually I landed on going back to school at the University of Denver to get my Masters in Clinical Social Work with a concentration in mental health and trauma. I continue to “do the work” as they say personally and I take an immense amount of pride in authentically and genuinely living this work every single day. Although I am by no means perfect I believe that this is what the athletic community needs now more than ever.
I want to teach and empower athletes through these practices so that they can learn more about themselves. I want to give athletes and coaches tools and skills to help them be just a little more in control of their mental and emotional well being. I want to change the way we not only SPEAK about mental health and well-being but HANDLE mental health and well-being for all athletes.
As a former college athlete and college coach I know that we need to be doing more for our athletes. At the end of the day if I can make sure that no athlete, no coach, no person goes through what I want through then my life’s work will be complete. I wake up every single day with a passion and love for what I do and I believe that my journey shows the capacity and the power of these practices. Although I do not look back on my own mental health journey and feel grateful for my struggle I do recognize and understand that how we respond in life matters. My response was to learn as much as I could about myself so that I could heal and live a life full of purpose, passion and love. I believe that the world as a whole continues to move in the right direction with regards to mental and emotional health but we still have a long way to go. It gives me no greater joy than to wake up, keep doing the work and continue to make changes that both support and empower the future generation of athletes to come.