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"Looking back, I wish I had gone up to somebody in the front office earlier and said, 'Look, I'm having a tough time. I need some time off,'" she says. "But I saw my situation as embarrassing. There's a stigma, especially in the African-American community. We're such prayerful people, the answer is always, 'Let's go and pray.'"
Looking for a fresh start in 2005, Holdsclaw asked the Mystics to trade her, so they dealt her to L.A. The Sparks helped her find a therapist, who prescribed Wellbutrin XL, an antidepressant that didn't drain her energy. With Holdsclaw leading the team in scoring, the Sparks made the playoffs and she made the All-Star team again. "Things were great," she says.
But with her grandmother gone, Holdsclaw had become her family's go-to problem solver, and as the '06 season got under way there were developments that brought a lot of pressure on her. Holdsclaw's stepdad, Fredrick Clark, had esophageal cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy in North Carolina, and his marriage to Bonita was crumbling. At the same time Holdsclaw's father, Willie Johnson, who suffers from schizophrenia, had stopped taking his meds and would disappear for months, sending his family in South Carolina into a frenzy of worry. "You're the only one he'll listen to," relatives told Chamique.
Holdsclaw took a two-week leave from the team and traveled East to fix what she could. She returned to L.A. in early June emotionally exhausted. One night, as she sat in her Marina del Rey apartment angry and despairing, she stared at her bottle of Wellbutrin. How many would it take to end it all? She called a friend who lived nearby.
"I don't want to do this anymore," Holdsclaw said.
"What do you not want to do anymore? Do you not want to play?" asked the friend.
"I don't want to play," Holdsclaw responded. "I'm tired, I just want to be at peace.... I want to be at peace with my grandmother."
By the time the friend arrived, Holdsclaw had swallowed 10 or 11 Wellbutrins. The friend took her to a hospital. What followed that night comes back to Holdsclaw in chaotic vignettes: being forced to drink activated charcoal; vomiting repeatedly; crying hysterically because she was hallucinating that a cowboy with a lasso was chasing her. "I felt like I was going to die," she says. "It was the worst night of my life."
Holdsclaw remained hospitalized for a few days. The only teammate who knew she was there was her good friend Murriel Page, and Holdsclaw told her she was suffering from dehydration. The few who did know about the overdose chastised her. "They told me how stupid I had been, how anything could have happened," she says. "I vowed to myself: I can never let this happen again."
Holdsclaw swore off meds and returned to the team, coming off the bench to contribute 15.0 points and 6.1 rebounds as the Sparks put up the best record in the West before losing in the first round of the playoffs. She was looking forward to the next season.