• endurelifenow

"I endure because I know that my trials will make me stronger" - Fireside with Tanner Mangum

Meet Tanner Mangum, a former Division I starting quarterback who dedicates much of his time to serving in the community and speaking to youth groups around the country on topics such as mental health, and dealing with adversity.

During Tanner’s time at Brigham Young University (2015-2018), he set numerous passing records, was a two-time team captain, and garnered several prestigious awards including National Freshman of the Year by The Touchdown Club of Columbus in 2015.

From 2013-2015, Tanner served a two-year religious mission in northern Chile for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is fluent in Spanish and hopes to one day return to South America to further spread his message of mental health awareness, hope, kindness, and love.

Tanner enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, snow skiing, and river rafting. He currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife Sydney and daughter Maya.


Q.) How has mental health/illness impacted your life?

A.) I played quarterback at a top Division I university, and I always prided myself on being able to properly handle stress, pressure, and anxiety. I had a lot of experience performing in high-pressure situations, and never felt overwhelmed by my emotions. I am normally also a very optimistic, outgoing, and positive individual. But in the spring and summer after my freshman year, I started having attacks of anxiety. I couldn't sleep. I was always on edge. I overthought everything. I beat myself up for every little mistake I made, and worried about things that I normally never worried about. I didn't know how to handle all this stress, so my anxiety went on like this for months.

Eventually, that anxiety turned into a bout of depression. I lost my energy, drive, enthusiasm, and motivation. I chose to hang out alone in my room most of the time instead of spending time with family and friends. I cried a lot, but I also felt emotionless. Like I didn't want to feel anything at all. And though I did not feel like my normal, happy self, I did a good job of hiding all of this from the outside world.

With some loving encouragement from my mom, I started meeting with a therapist. I had never imagined doing therapy in my life, but it ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I finally began to unpack all of my anxieties, stresses, and worries. Together with my therapist, we got to the root of my issues and worked on understanding my mind and body, developing healthy coping strategies, and altering my perspective on my life circumstances. The work I did with my therapist empowered me and provided me with understanding, peace, and enlightenment. After several months, I started feeling back to my normal self, and like anyone who experiences something life-changing, I wanted to share my experience with others.

I began sharing my experiences with mental health on social media, and because of my platform that football had given me, my story started being talked about across many different media outlets. I did interviews and stories with local newspapers and news stations in Utah, as well as national outlets such as ESPN, CBS, USA Today, and the National Football Foundation. The responses I got from people on social media was incredible. People were so supportive and appreciative of me sharing my story. I realized that so many more people deal with mental illness than we realize, and because of that how important it is to be kind and empathetic to everyone.

I learned that by sharing my story I was:

1. Speaking my truth which helped me learn to love myself and be at peace with my struggles;

2. Connecting with others and helping them realize that they're not alone; and

3. Breaking the stigma that surrounds mental health. These three things are now three of my life passions.

In essence, my unexpected struggles, while extremely difficult to handle at times, have become sources of extreme peace and connection. I am now filled with a unique empathy and understanding that wasn't there before.

Q.) What are your positive outlets and how did you discover them?

A.) Being out in nature is the most therapeutic outlet for me. Whether it's hiking, river rafting, being on a lake, or just spending time outside in the mountains, nature has a way of bringing me calm and peace. I'm much more present and in the moment, which is something I'm always working on. I also love to read, and I enjoy writing and taking pictures as well. I've found a lot of satisfaction and therapy in exploring my creative side, which is why I've gotten into blogging on my website tannermangum.org and editing pictures on VSCO.

Q.) Do you think nature plays an important part in recovering from mental illnesses?

A.) Nature has always maintained an inexplicable allure upon humans for centuries, and spending time outside has long been proven to be good for mental and emotional health, and I think it's because in nature we are forced to be present, in the moment, mindful, and undistracted from any other care or worry. Mindfulness, being present and enjoying the moment are some of the biggest skills we can develop in life, particularly for recovering from mental illness. Disconnecting and unplugging from the world does so much good for the soul, and the calm and peace that nature brings is so soothing and relaxing, which is hard to find anywhere else.

Q.) Who/what do you endure for?

A.) I endure because I know that my trials will make me stronger, more patient, more empathetic, more full of love. I know that enduring will allow me to greater connect with others and to help them through their hard times. I believe that all experiences in life can be used for good if you look at them through the right lens. Adversity truly is the greatest teacher, and the greatest catalyst for growth, which in turn allows us to become greater friends, teachers, and mentors ourselves.

Q.) What’s your favorite National Park, and why? Or what place have you always wanted to visit?

A.) Zion National Park is my favorite; the beautiful colors of the red and orange rocks, the majestic mountains and rock formations, and the panoramic views are breathtaking. It feels like a foreign world. I spent a day there with my wife after we got married and I also hiked there with my older brother, so there's a lot of nostalgic value to it as well.

Q.) Do you prefer to explore the forest, ocean, desert, etc?

A.) I love to explore the forest. I've always had an affinity for trees; I feel like they're very symbolic and serve as a metaphor for life in different ways. The way they stand tall, together, and grow and become stronger through wind and storms. And how the leaves fall which allows for regrowth and new life in the spring. They're cyclically but constantly growing, and I think that's how we are as humans.

Q.) What advice would you give someone that is struggling?

A.) I would remind anyone that is struggling that you are not alone, that help is available, and that there is absolutely no shame in seeking help. Getting professional help was the best thing I could have ever done; I don't know where I would be without it. It's normal to want to keep things to ourselves or to want to fight through hard times by ourselves, but the emotional toll that takes on us can be devastating and insurmountable. Instead, seek help, seek connection, and talk about your struggles with a therapist, friends, family, or a trusted loved one. Everyone is going through something; you're not alone. There is help available. Please seek it out.

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