This weekend I was supposed to ride in my first endurance race with Outlaw. I felt so proud to finally be ready to compete and the race we chose was a fundraiser for Suicide Awareness. Unfortunately, I had to scratch last minute due to a small poorly placed puncture wound above his hoof. Outlaw will be just fine, but the disappointment was and is real on my end. I may not be a religious person, but I think a good part of me believes in fate and the timing of this race just seemed almost like fate. We will miss this weekend, but there will be another race and we will eventually make our debut. But, because we have to miss the ride, I wanted to say a few words about my experience with mental health. If we can’t ride to help raise awareness, I might as well talk about it and make it less taboo. At least for those who are in my life via social media.
Depression comes in many forms and can happen to anyone at any time in their life. Sometimes it’s caused by a specific event or loss, sometimes it‘s bought on by a lack of satisfaction in life that builds up over time. It can happen to young or old, to people that are single or with a spouse or partner. Sometimes it ebs and flows, other times it feels like it’s unbeatable. Sometimes, you don’t realize depression is the problem. You attribute the symptoms to something else entirely. Trying to make changes to the things you can control, hoping you’ll dig yourself out of the apparent rut you’ve found yourself in. Sometimes you’ll be sitting right in front of what should make you happy, but you can’t bring yourself to get up and do it.
For some, depression can be caused by a chemical or hormonal imbalance. Others may have hit a rut that they have yet to encounter in life, and they have never developed the skills needed to climb back out.
Here’s the thing, none of the above is something you should be ashamed of or feel you need to hide. One, it’s not your fault you are depressed. No matter if it’s chemical, hormonal, or bought on by life circumstances. The biggest misconception about mental health that I have found, is that people are embarrassed because they think if they are having any of these problems it’s because they aren’t strong enough. They assume that if they are depressed, it’s because they did something wrong, or failed to push hard enough. This then leads one to feel worse about being depressed, because why can’t you just snap out of it? I’ve battled depression for most of my life. Only having sought treatment for it in the last 10 years, I am still learning ways to recognize if I’m slipping back down that road, and I’m always picking up new coping mechanisms. Even still, I am one that needs an additional boost from medication. But I’m no longer ashamed of that. I’ll tell people all the time, I’m my best self through chemistry and thank goodness for it. I also have been in therapy on and off since my early twenties, and consistently since 2016. You wouldn’t ask someone with diabetes to just be tougher and not take insulin. If someone
was having an acute medical crisis you wouldn’t say, just suck it up. You don’t need a doctor to help you get better. So why do we make these assumptions about one of the most common conditions in the world? Why is it that even though depression can befall anyone at anytime, and no one is immune to it, that most people don’t know how to recognize the signs in themselves or others? If a man has pain in his left arm just about everyone knows to think HEART
ATTACK! But when someone is continuously too tired to go out, short fused, or plain uninterested, we are quick to assume they are being bitchy, or we take it personally. When we could be thinking, hey are you alright?
Just like you can go to the gym to get stronger, or build up immunity to an illness through exposure. The same goes for depression. But here’s the thing, most people only seek therapy or psychiatric help DURING crisis. And during crisis, you can’t strengthen yourself. During crisis you get yourself out of it. And for many, they leave it at that. Feeling better, they stop talking about what got them there in the first place. They don’t dig deeper. And they don’t learn and PRACTICE coping mechanisms when they are in a stable state. But it’s when you are stable that you should be sowing spending the time building up your mental health. For some that could be semi regular work with a therapist. It could be a class, reading books on the topic, or even listening to Ted talks and podcasts.
So for anyone out there struggling or in active crisis, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. To a friend, to me, to hotline, there’s nothing bad about any of those resources. To those reading this that are currently in a good place in life, be sure to be aware of signs others could be displaying and not recognizing. Work on skills you yourself may need one day. Talk to your kids! Normalize maintenance of mental health. I guess that’s my spiel for now. Best of luck to everyone at Muckleratz this weekend. Thanks for riding for a great cause and hopefully I’ll see you on the trail soon.