Chamique Holdsclaw rebounds, free from ‘mental prison’

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Former WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist Chamique Holdsclaw instructs students during a youth basketball clinic in Hendersonville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Chamique Holdsclaw is getting her life back in order after being trapped in what felt like a “mental prison” following her arrest last November.

The former WNBA star, Olympic gold medalist and Tennessee All-American was treated for depression until being diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder after breaking the car windows of WNBA player Jennifer Lacy with a bat and firing a shot into the vehicle. Lacy told police she was Holdsclaw’s ex-girlfriend.

Holdsclaw pleaded guilty in June to aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and other charges resulting in three years’ probation and a $3,000 fine.

“It’s been like a mental prison because it was real uncharacteristic of me,” Holdsclaw said Tuesday while sitting on the floor of the gym at Beech High School after helping host a youth basketball camp with another former Lady Vol, Brittany Jackson. “It was real uncharacteristic of me and everybody judging me from every different angle.”

But Holdsclaw said her attorneys helped her work with a forensic psychologist who combed through her medical records dating back to 2002 when she was diagnosed with clinical depression and worked with a psychiatrist. Holdsclaw said they realized that while she has signs of depression she really had bipolar 2 disorder with high levels of irritability and impulsiveness, which is challenging to diagnose.

“I was angry,” Holdsclaw said. “I’m like, ‘Come on.’ I’ve been going through this pretty much since I was a young kid. I’ve been on medications trying different things since 2002, and you tell me it takes a situation like this for people to really look at it and get the right medications.”

She’s not angry anymore.

Jackson, who runs her own basketball academy with camps nationwide, recently worked with the four-time All-American at a camp near Chattanooga, Tenn. On Tuesday Holdsclaw helped run boys and girls through a variety of drills at the camp outside Nashville before posing for photos with campers and parents afterward. She also signed lots of autographs.

“Hopefully, this is just the beginning of many more” camps, Jackson said.

A relaxed Holdsclaw seems up for the challenge. She smiled as she talked at ease about her problems after making the 4-hour drive from Atlanta to help with the two-day camp.

Following the arrest, Holdsclaw had to deal with the courts and legal system for the first time in her life. She spent a night in jail and later woke up several times in a cold sweat. She even wore an ankle bracelet for a few months monitoring her travel, which prompted her to ask for private searches when going through security at airports. She even had to check in from the parking lot before attending a Lady Vols’ game at South Carolina last winter in her first public appearance after the arrest.

Holdsclaw said she was welcomed by a “sea of orange” with fans telling her they were praying for her.

“I hate that this situation occurred,” Holdsclaw said. “I feel like I’ve hurt my family and also the victim’s family, but it’s been a great thing in helping me move forward. Now I’m on the right medication. I’ve been able to get the right treatment, and it’s really improved my quality of life night and day.”

Holdsclaw now takes the antidepressant medication Wellbutrin each morning after it was previously prescribed for night-time use. She’s also in therapy once a week, even using the phone when traveling. Holdsclaw said it’s all part of keeping to a schedule necessary for someone dealing with bipolar 2 disorder.

She runs an average of 32 miles a week, works with her foundation and travels to promote awareness of mental health issues. She still plays basketball a few times each week, and a couple of European teams have reached out to her agent. For now, she’s fine with not playing basketball.

“I knew that I had to take care of myself,” Holdsclaw said. “That’s my first priority right now, even though I love the game.”

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