Chamique Holdsclaw, 41, played in the WNBA for 11 years – six of them with the Washington Mystics – and was a WNBA all-star six times. She is now a mental health advocate and the subject of the documentary film “Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw.” She lives with her wife outside Los Angeles.
Q: You have become a mental health advocate, open about your (bipolar) illness and sharing your story with others. What was your journey like in terms of recognizing the illness and coming to terms with it?
A: At first I was like, “Whatever.” That whole denial phase you go through. I take it back to when I was a young kid and my mom went to rehab the first time. It didn’t work. She started back drinking. She was in denial. It’s kind of like my situation. I was really good at basketball. That covered a lot of stuff up, and I failed to really deal with the illness. I threw myself into sports. Distracting everyone. Wearing that mask. I became really good at that. I just wish that mental health was just talked about back then. It was a negative thing, a stigma. Like, “Oh, my God. I don’t want people to think that I’m crazy.”
I remember, in D.C., I became really paranoid that people were going to know. That was probably some of the worst times. I thought the best thing was to just distance myself. We would go out, and I just wanted to party, trying to mask it socially. And then you’re drinking and stuff, and thinking that’s going to make things better. And it doesn’t. It doesn’t go away. That would relax my mind for only so much. That high. And then you go back home. And it’s just, like, “Ugh.” You’re still depressed.