Advertisement

Lobo guard Braden Appelhans opens up about depression, battling 'invisible injury'

Feb. 29—University of New Mexico guard Braden Appelhans' decision Wednesday night to go public with his ongoing battle with depression has gone viral with his posts on social media receiving millions of views and thousands comments of praise and encouragement.

The 6-foot-7 second-year guard from Blue Springs, Missouri, posted on Instagram and X at 9:15 p.m. a 630-word account of his having been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety in fourth grade and dealing with depression since high school.

Appelhans, who took a medical redshirt after a season-ending thumb injury 10 games in to his freshman year in 2022-2023, said he was optimistic about increased playing time this season after strong offseason workouts. Starting in late September, however, he said he began "spiraling into a dark place," leading to emotional breakdowns in practices, falling behind in school and losing interest in basketball.

He said the UNM Lobo basketball coaching staff contacted his mom, who traveled to Albuquerque to be with him. In consultation with doctors, the family learned his ADHD medication and an antidepressant he was taking had been "canceling each other out" for about six months.

Between getting his medication in order and seeing a sports therapist, Appelhans wrote, "Slowly but surely I started to feel like myself again" and that he has "accepted that I have an invisible injury that I am fixing."

Appelhans averaged 3.6 points per game coming off the bench in 13 games this season, mostly in the team's nonconference schedule. Since Mountain West play began in January, he's played seven minutes total in three games and hasn't scored.

In his post, he thanked teammates and coaches for helping him through the past six months and assured all he is doing much better today and looks forward to playing for the Lobos next season.

The post had nearly 4 million views on X as of Thursday afternoon, more than 31,000 "likes" and more than 1,200 replies overwhelmingly praising his courage for coming forward with his story and potentially helping people in similar situations understand they are not alone in such battles.

"Take the time to read @AppelhansBraden mentions this am. Shows you how much good there is out there. Braden's courage to tell his story is making a difference in other's lives. Special stuff," Lobo coach Richard Pitino posted himself on X on Thursday.

Here, in its entirety, is Appelhans post:

Those of you who follow New Mexico basketball may have noticed I haven't been playing or anyone who knows me may have noticed I have been so distant from everyone and there is a good reason for that.I have struggled with depression off and on since high school. I was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety in 4th grade. I was put on medication to help with school and only took it during school (summers and weekends off) I was told my medication had a slight antidepressant in it. Since my depression wasn't constant and would come and go my parents just helped me through it, thinking my medication would help.Last spring, after taking a medical redshirt, trying to recover from surgery, and learning how to balance school with a tough travel schedule my depression showed up in a big, bad, scary way! I went home after school got out, got into my doctor, and started on an antidepressant.I returned to UNM for summer and fall and killed it in practice. Was earning playing time and showing signs of having a great season. However, in late September I started spiraling into a dark place again. My coaches noticed a dramatic change. I would call me several times a day to my mom in just a complete meltdown. I couldn't make it through a practice without breaking down in tears. I couldn't function, stopped doing homework, lost interest in basketball, and was going down a dark path to the point where I was questioning if I should even be here. My coaches called my mom and said she needed to come and be with me. She was on a plane the next day and spent 4 days in Albuquerque. I went to see the team doctor and learned my ADHD medication and depression medication were canceling each other out. For about 6 months I wasn't getting any medication. I got on a new medication that worked with my ADHD meds and got in with the sports therapist. Slowly but surely I started to feel like myself again. Then the start of the semester came and anxiety attacks kicked in. They would hit me out of the blue. They were almost crippling and exhausting. So back to the doctor I went and decided it was time to stop the ADHD meds — too much stimulation. Now I am about 2 months ADHD meds free. Grades are still good and I feel like myself again. I still take an antidepressant every day but I am in such a better place!Through all of this, I missed practices and games. My coaches, teammates and everyone involved in Lobo basketball put me in a protective cocoon and took great care of me and I couldn't be more thankful for them. My coaches decided to limit me to make sure I was mentally healthy. I've handled it the best way possible and I understand their decision because I know what a dark scary place I was in.You change from here.I am so grateful that I reached out for help. I knew I could call my parents, coaches, and teammates at any time. Most people (young kids and young adults especially) don't have that. Most don't dare to reach out and ask for help. I hope someone reading this will see that it can happen to anyone, even kids who are living out their dreams. Everyone needs help at some point.So there it is. That is the big story and mystery as to why I haven't been on the floor and why I have been so distant from everyone. I have accepted that I have an invisible injury that I am fixing and is well on the mend! I will be back in a Lobo jersey next year!-BA1