Hi. My name is Anthony J. Pecorella. I am a sophomore finance major in the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. I also play football for the Maryland Terrapins. I mention all of that because it is crucial to understand that ANYONE can have a mental health struggle, even people who, in theory, have everything going right for them.
Growing up, life was great. I had no problems or crazy struggles in my life thanks to my parents breaking their back for my sister and me. My mental health struggle reached its ultimate peak on December 24, 2019. I’m sure some of you are thinking it, yes, it was Christmas Eve - not exactly my ideal way of celebrating. I was sitting with my family having dinner just like we do every year. Out of nowhere, this voice entered my head. At first, I thought nothing of it. I brushed it off and carried on with dinner. As time for dessert came around, the voice grew even louder. It was harping on me to the point that I could not brush it off anymore. It was telling me that I should not, and potentially would not live to see the sun rise the next morning. I did not believe the voice at first - I pushed it down. But, as with anything, if you are told something repeatedly, at a certain point you have enough and you start to believe it. The voice was relentless. Even once my family left, it wouldn’t let up. I had gone up to my room and found myself just sitting in bed, forced to listen to that voice for hours on end. After several hours, I was sweating and panicking, not knowing if this voice was real or not.
Eventually, I fell asleep and when I awoke I felt out of it as if I was on autopilot. As I opened gifts that morning, it was a surreal feeling because it felt as if I won a 12 round fight the night prior. The voice would continually make appearances here and there, which was the sign I needed to tell someone about my struggle. After talking to my mom, dad, and sister the first person I sat and talked to was my high school quarterback trainer, James Brady. He introduced me to meditation, which allowed me to take over my mind again. In doing this, I understood that the voice in my head was not my own and if it ever comes back I will know how to combat it. TAKING A DEEP BREATH!!
On December 24, 2020, I shared my story with the public on Instagram for the first time and the resounding response I received inspired me to do something to help others. Along with my friend, Charley Baker, who is also a sophomore at the University of Maryland, we started an account called Healthy Minds. When Charley and I started this I had never met Charley before. We had known of each other but never met in person. She reached out after I posted my story, expressing that if I ever needed someone to talk to about all of this to not hesitate and reach out to her. It was at that moment I knew Charley would be the perfect person to run the account with.
The goal of the account is to provide people with three things. The first part is mental health advice Charley and I provide based on our own research and experiences. The second part is to give people a platform to share their own mental health stories to a community of people who will listen and extend an arm to help them. The third part is to motivate people to get out in the world and live life to the fullest. All of these parts come together to squash the stigma that is mental health and allow people to say if they are not ok. IT IS OK TO NOT BE OK!