Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Fall to Get Back Up: My Story of Depression

Up until 2016 I had gone through life and my athletic career with very few tough times. Definitely no devastating events had happened to me. I would say that I sort of assumed that if I just continued the way I was living that my life would stay on track and that I had virtually nothing to worry about. 

I was completely unprepared mentally and physically for what was to come at the beginning of 2016. When i found out I had tears in both of my hamstrings, I had everyone around me telling me that I could still get through it and be able to compete at the Olympics in Rio that summer. As much as I wanted to believe them and as mentally tough I truly thought I was, this diagnosis really shook me and I feel like I couldn't cope with the potential of being at the top of my career (at the time) and not being able to compete at the Olympics. Even though I knew in those months following my diagnosis that there was potential that I wouldn't recover in time for Rio, when the decision was actually made to pull the plug, I really took a downwards spiral. In hindsight, it was a gradual spiral down but once that decision was made that I couldn't go to Rio, I really felt like it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I began feeling lifeless, unenergized, unmotivated...list goes on. I did what I had to do on a daily basis to keep life moving but in reality I had zero desire to be cooking for my family, doing fun activities with my daughter or really anything other than staying home and laying on the couch. In some ways, I felt relieved that I didn't have to keep fighting anymore to come back to training quickly or do all the rehab exercises and appointments on a daily/weekly basis because it was very grueling. Through that summer I then felt unmotivated to exercise or be back in the grind of training. I was questioning if I wanted to come back to competing again.

I then got pregnant which was my original plan anyways post competing in Rio like we did after the Olympics in London. This was probably the best thing for my body so that I could completely recover from the hamstring tears without the pressure of trying to get fit to compete again. During the time I was pregnant, I really didn't care much about training. I barely racewalked (my first pregnancy I racewalked 7+ months of it). I really just went out training with my racewalk training partners and ran next to them, otherwise I likely wouldn't have worked out at all. During my pregnancy, I just kept thinking, I enjoy "normal" life, with no specific time to be out the door in the morning, energy to play with my daughter with no worries of being tired for training. Eating whatever I wanted. There were no limitations. I didn't miss my racewalking life at all during those 9 months and that worried me. 

Once I gave birth to my daughter, Blaise, in May 2017, I thought that my desire to get back to training would just click in. Almost 2 months after her birth I took my first steps racewalking again. While it went well and all felt good, I just didn't quite have the spunk I thought I would. I thought it would come back the more I did and the fitter I got but that just wasn't the case. 

I realized I truly was dealing with depression in the fall of 2017. After speaking to a friend that has dealt with depression a lot of her life, it confirmed to me that it was indeed depression. Trying to train and make my comeback again was driving me deeper into that depression. When I was training, all I could think about was "I don't want to be doing this anymore, I just want to stop".One day in training there became a conflict with one of my training partners and we had a small argument. This event really tipped me over the deep end of my depression. I thought "I don't have time for this, I'm barely hanging on as it is and now one of my training partners are giving me a hard time". I went a few days after that happened contemplating what I was doing. I then joined the group again a few days later for another workout and I had a lot of anxiety about a conflict happening again with my training partner. I just kept thinking "I don't want to do this, I don't want to do this". Once we started the workout, I got 2km's in and whispered to Tim (my coach and husband) "I don't want to do this" and abruptly stopped. He thought it was just because of the workout but in reality in that moment I was ready to quit. I walked back to my car with him and explained the feelings that I had been having for over a year and a half and he really didn't realize how bad I was. After the workout I had left and my training partners asked Tim what happened and he said "she just quit racewalking". 

On top of all of this, I was struggling with a baby that was extremely difficult (and continues to be to this day). She wasn't sleeping much during the day or at night and challenged my patience to the max. This only added more stress to my already stressful situation. 

I decided I would take an indefinite break from racewalking and just exercise by doing what I felt like, not what I had to do. I realized that I had to get my life together because I wasn't enjoying things that I truly loved. I think it was out of my control at this point, that I wasn't able to choose to enjoy some things in my life because of the state of mind I was in. 

This is when I began talking with friends and family around me and started to open up about the depression I was dealing with. Many had noticed and many had no idea. Learning to accept that this is really what was going on was extremely helpful. Speaking to others who had dealt with depression before, helped. JUST talking, helped! I was never afraid or embarrassed of the idea of depression, I just didn't realize for the longest time that it was happening to me and didn't know how to climb out once I knew what was going on.

For me, realizing that my life didn't need to be the same as it had been before all this happened and that it was ok to have a new identity was a big part of overcoming my mental health issues. Accepting that my baby was difficult and that it had nothing to do with what I was doing with her helped tremendously. All of these realizations came because of talking with people. 

I am really proud and happy to say that I have managed to start climbing out of my depression and that I am in a really good place again. Since the new year, I am back to enjoying training again and my fitness is thriving. I am enjoying spending time with my family again because I am HAPPY again. 

Please, I beg you, if you are dealing with depression, or any sort of mental health issues, reach out to someone. A friend, family member or medical professional. We all deserve to be living out best lives and enjoying our life with friends and family. Make yourself a priority today!

Keep on walking, 


1 comment:

  1. Nancy, here. Just read the account of your struggles with depression, Rachel. You are very brave to have dome this and I hope your story resonates with anyone suffering from depression and motivates them to get help. It doesn't always have to be professional help as you have testified that talking to others did you the world of good. Also so happy to know you are training again and that you have not lost your love of sport. It's kept me going after two spinal surgeries. I can't do what I used to do but I've found ways to train hard and keep my fitness levels up. I'm still coaching and therefore am still connected to the sport I love so much.Wish you, Tim and Jeff were still doing traveling clinics as I'd love to have you back in Toronto. All the best to you,Tim and your family.