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Chamique Holdsclaw says secrets about her mental illness were killing her

Chamique Holdsclaw talks about the mental illness that she struggled with even while rising to the top of the WNBA for a new documentary film, Mind/Game.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

WNBA legend Chamique Holdsclaw talks about her struggles with mental illness in a powerful new documentary on Logo, set to air May 3. Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey Of Chamique Holdsclaw tracks the rise to greatness of a player who helped transform women's basketball and who became one of its greatest stars, being named a league All-Star six times.

Holdsclaw has been open about her sexual orientation for years. During a time when the WNBA wanted to keep conversations about sexual orientation on the sidelines, Holdsclaw lived her life openly and honestly.

But she wasn't able to be honest about the incredible mental illness that was eating at her. Despite being on top of the world, Holdsclaw retreated from people, trying to lock herself in a shell.

When Holdsclaw was hitting rock bottom, various people in her life tried to reach out, but it just wasn't helping. It was one particular person, a good friend in Washington D.C., who finally knew how to build a safe space for Holdsclaw to find refuge.

"It took a lot of love, a lot of understanding," Holdsclaw said over the phone recently. "People would tell me they needed to talk to me, and it was finally a friend taking my hand and being honest with me, telling me things were flying off the handle. And she created a safe space for me to open up. It's a matter of creating a village and being around people who will love and support you, so when you do fall down you have people who will help you get up."

As she understood her mental illness, she still struggled to explain it to other people. That's when she harkened back to her coming-out conversations with family and trying to explain her feelings with the people she loved.

"Being able to talk about my sexual orientation with my family helped me realize I can talk about things. When I was dealing with the mental health issue I had friends who couldn't understand it, and I really had to educate people, how certain things made me feel and how I needed support form them."

While Holdsclaw may have survived the worst of it, she is by no means past the depression and mental illness that les her to this suffering.

"A lot of people think I'm cured. No. It's something I still live with. I struggle to get out of bed. But I make a decision to get out of bed. Sometimes I need to call someone to talk. But I'll eventually get out of bed and get to the gym."

For Holdsclaw, it has been living her life openly about both her sexual orientation and her mental illness that have freed her to live a happier, healthier life.

"Every day, waking up, and living in my truth, now there are no secrets. The secrets were killing me. Especially at a high level in basketball. It scared me. But as soon as I was able to speak about it and be honest, I started healing. And now I wake up and there's nothing you can say to me. I'm open. I'm a black woman, and yes I've had these mental health issues, but when you're open about it, what can they say? I'm walking in my journey and I'm happy."

For more of Holdsclaw's journey, be sure to check out Mind/Game on Logo Tuesday, May 3, 9pmET.