Wisnewski 'more open' after mental health break from football

Source: 1News

It was supposed to be the time of her life; a young footballer in New Zealand's first-ever professional women's team.

But for Grace Wisnewski it all came crashing down, crippled by demons she just couldn't shake.

Wisnewski returned home to New Zealand in February midway through the team’s first season for mental health reasons and still remembers the emotions she felt during the campaign.

In fact it was a highlight of the club’s inaugural season – their first ever win – that was one of Wisnewski’s toughest memories.

"I remember after the Canberra game that we won I was so upset,” Wisnewski told 1News.

“We'd won - I should be happy, the team's all happy. But it was one of those things where I was just so numb."

Despite being surrounded by teammates constantly in their camp in Australia, Wisnewski had never felt more alone.

"After games I didn't really eat or talk to anyone,” she said.

“I'd spend days in bed, I'd miss training."

Wisnewski's first professional season may have ended prematurely but she's now taking back control.

Earlier this month, Wisnewski went viral with a public letter she wrote to mental illness, saying because of it she could no longer be the person she is or enjoy the things she loved.

Grace Wisnewski.

The letter was shared across social media and praised heavily by both strangers and those closest to her.

"It takes so much courage and bravery, we went through a lot of it with her, but even reading it was hard,” Phoenix coach Gemma Lewis said.

“It's so tough to hear it in her words, her story and the fact she was trying to take that power back."

Now, she's doing just that having returned to training this week for the first time.

Wisnewski told 1News through her journey she found an unexpected ally who had walked a similar path in White Ferns star Amelia Kerr, who took time out from cricket last year for her own mental health.

Kerr's own openness about mental health sparked an instant connection with the two eventually meeting and being able to relate.

"I was so scared. It was scary, like I've never talked to Amelia Kerr in my life,” Wisnewski said.

“We spoke for over an hour just chatting about life and how I feel and how she felt … it definitely helped me a lot.

“And it helped me be more open about how I felt, because it felt like it was more normal."

Wisnewski said it's a message she's eager to share as she continues her comeback.