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In Our Own Words

"Over time, I came to the conclusion that my mental health was not in check."

By: Anonymous USA Cycling member  March 03, 2020

An anonymous member of the USA Cycling community shares about struggling with the stigma of mental health and the difficulties that arise when it feels like you need permission for wellness.

Since my middle school years, I knew that I had a passion for building rapport with others and creating effective change in the field of human service. Over time, I came to the conclusion that my mental health was not in check. When I stopped talking to my supportive parents (truly, I am lucky), delayed my sister’s bed times (because we processed the day, despite being 4 Years apart), I kept riding my mountain bike. Yes, I rode around the block with the neighbors and stopped when I was winded. I had quite the five second sprint, but nothing beyond it.

Entering high school, my cocker spaniel of eleven years was put down; an enlarging of the heart does not bode well for breathing and quality of life. Hard decisions are hard and I lost my best friend. My human best friend was (and still is) a girl. At age 15, it was not socially acceptable to hang out with your femme friends at my school. It was very segregated, sexist, and partially dehumanizing. Here, I had a social support that I could not give myself the permission to lean on. So I leaned on journaling and crying. I had no clue that the loss of my dog was the the last flake of snow to start my avalanche, the descent into depression. I had clear weeks and months where I was going through the motions, unfocused in class, performing inconsistently across environments (including trumpet, don’t get me started about how before and after counseling I never liked marching band, hehe). I would return home from high school, go to my room, and cry. I would eventually surface for dinner, and then return to my room. I would write, I wouldn’t speak in full sentences to my parents. As medical providers and my sister’s history with mental illness they put together the pieces. I am making light of this situation, but how incredible and random is it when your parents find a tea drinking, cyclist for a therapist!?

My first 4-6 sessions were really difficult and I would distract the therapist with tea and bike topics. He knew to re-direct me back to the “why, how, and what” of being in session. My psychiatrist was frank, clear, and decisive. He’d tell me how he thought my brain was working, the functions of depression and ADHD, and which medications would help get me to a place to be more active in my therapy sessions and bring me back to the surface; my life. I wanted help! I got help! …but now, as a School Counselor (and even before college) I realized how infrequent this is. More folks need quality social support in order to pedal through to the next process and/or destination. The bike is my ever present metaphor for processing; focus on the facts, acknowledge the emotion without judgement, and proceed forward.

Now, I have been on the same cycling team for 14 years, got my Master’s Degree, and having a supportive dynamic with my parents. I’m years beyond leaving the nest, racing my own bikes, and bringing the love for endurance sport, mindset, and well-being to all who appreciate it.

Permission for wellness.

About the Contributor

In Our Own Words welcomes all contributors. Sometimes for a particular story, contributors wish to remain anonymous to protect themselves. USA Cycling respects those decisions and will publish and share these contributors stories. If you have a story to share with In Our Own Words, please email Kelsey Erickson.

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