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Welcome back, it whispers to me.

I thought I was free of you, I say.

In truth I know I was never far from returning. It was only a matter of time, though my fight was valiant.

And a lie.

I wanted to believe that light would win out, but for some darkness is their only friend.

For some the under world is home.

It does not judge or pretend.

There are no masks.

A smile is genuine and so too is sadness.

Both are welcome.

Both are accepted.

That and more is expected.

Rage, fury, hate reign free.

Only here they go unpunished.

How liberating to feel such things and then be rid of them.

If you wish.

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Black Bird

I came upon a black bird
I found him in a cage
He was beautiful and large I imagine though he could not spread his wings
The cage was more like a prison than a home
I would visit everyday
And in time he came to know my name
Some days we would talk for hours
Others, I would just stare in awe at his majesty
He spoke of many things
So intelligent was he
Except when it came to one thing
He did not realize he was free
The door to his cage was always open
He could leave on his own free will
But he remains still
I pray one day he sees his escape from his imaginary ties
What a glorious day it will be to see him fly

Talking, fighting…the usual

I’ve drafted at least ten posts. They seem like great ideas at the time. Maybe they still are. I just can’t seem to do anything with them. Yet.

I wanted to write about how grateful I am to be living with a mental illness. Yes I said grateful. I’ll explain that statement one day.

Instead, today I’m using all my tools to keep from slipping into that dark place again.

I knew this was coming.

I’ve been feeling really good lately. So good that it worried me. There’s always a little voice in the back of my brain that warns me not to get too comfortable. Or complacent. That this can’t and won’t last forever. Sadly that voice is right.

It started this morning with a rejection letter from a psychologist. Her apologies, but she doesn’t think she can help me.

Did not see that coming.

Then there was watching all my friends preparing for their time on stage this weekend. My heart wants to be there with them but my body is still telling me no. I am frustrated with my training. My knee, which was a trigger for my last bout of depression, is still a trigger. I tell myself I should just be grateful to be able to train at all. And I am, but the competitor inside me….

These, and a few other things, have led me here.

Right now I’m fighting a war between who I know I am and who my brain is telling me I am. I feel ugly and useless. Incapable of navigating through life. With little to offer anyone. Feeling lost. Feeling like I am running out of time.

It’s times like these I have to look back over my life and remind myself what I have survived and accomplished.

I have to remind myself that there is no rush.

I have to remind myself not to force my life. It needs to flow.

I have to remind myself that I am absolutely fine the way I am. It’s ok to want to be more, to be better, but it’s ok to be just as I am too.

I have to remind myself that this is just a bad day. And it’s almost over. And tomorrow I am given another opportunity for a good day.

In the meantime I’ve got some more self talk to do. If I keep at it long enough eventually I’m gonna listen.

Live in my Head

Hello! Welcome to my head. So nice of you to visit. Let me show you around.

~

I know it seems like we are lazy. Not getting getting out of bed or off the couch. Or staring blankly into space but I can assure you nothing could be further from the truth.

As you can see we are VERY busy. We don’t stop working here. No we don’t. It’s think think think. We are always thinking.

If you’ll turn your attention over here you’ll notice we are stressing over our vehicle.

Over here, you’ll see we’re wondering why we just said those things.

Here…we’re wondering why we’re always alone

And here…

Why we can get our shit together

What we can do to fix everything

Why we feel like this

Why we have no motivation

Why we are so tired but can’t sleep

Why we’re so useless

Why we’re such a failure

Why we’re unlovable

Will we ever feel normal

Will ever be happy

~

Hey, are you ok?

Ya, it can get pretty crazy in here. It’s overwhelming huh? All those voices talking at once.

You get used to it.

You learn to talk back to them.

~

Have you seen enough? Ok, well thanks again for dropping by. Feel free to come back anytime. We’ve always got room for one more.

She doesn’t care who you are

If you know me you’ll know that I LOVE gym. Gym in one form or another has been my entire life. It is my passion and it is my therapy, but there are days like today that it is the last place I want to be.

On days like today I don’t want to pretend I am ok.

Most of the members at my gym know about my illness. I’ve been pretty open about it. They probably wouldn’t even notice that I’m ‘off’. Or care. But I care. I don’t want to be the dark and negative energy that I feel I am when I’m depressed. I don’t want that around my friends.

I’m supposed to be an inspiration. A motivator.

On days like today I am just sad Athena.

Today’s depression got me thinking about athletes and mental illness. I tried to find other bodybuilders that have spoken out about their illness but I couldn’t find any.

I did find a lot of others though. People I did not expect.

Michael Phelps

John Daly

Daryl Strawberry

Serena Williams

Larry Sanders

Amanda Beard

That’s just a few.

For most people it seems almost impossible to believe that the most decorated Olympian ever locked himself in a room for 4 days with thoughts of suicide.

For most people. Not for me.

Did you know that athletes might be at a greater risk for mental illness? Injuries, competitive failures and over training can lead to psychological stress. I read a recent NCAA study that found that over the course of a year 30% of the athletes studied reported feeling depressed and half of them experienced high levels of anxiety.

I know society looks at athletes and thinks they are superhuman. That they are immune from such mortal problems and even if they do suffer they can overcome it with ease. That is not the case. They are just like you and me. But sometimes it’s harder for them to ask for help because of their status. Who will believe them?

Speaking from experience, when I was dealing with my knee injury few people recognized that I was heading down a dark road. When I tried to talk about how I felt I was met with comments like, “You’ll get over it.” “It’s not the end of the world”. You can still walk/train”. No one realized the physical injury was taking a toll on my mental state as well. Eventually I stopped talking about it. If I had to answer someone I would give them the answer they expected. That I was strong and I would deal and overcome.

We don’t want pity. We are not weak. We want help. We need help. And from what I have read today that help is finally coming to those in the sports arena. It’s about time.

Meanwhile I feel guilty for not training today. The guilt feeds the depression. I ask myself why can’t I just get my ass up and go.

It’s ok if I don’t. It’s just a day. Tomorrow I will be better. Tomorrow I will go. Tomorrow I will love gym again.

It’s not you. It’s me. Seriously

I’ve changed. She’s changed me. I don’t love as easily. Sometimes I don’t love at all. I don’t trust as easily. I’m distant.

I worry that I won’t have the deep connections with others that I want. I’m afraid that my brain will be a turn off for anyone interested in me. If I even let anyone get that close to me.

Relationships require work. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to enter into one that requires extra work. In my mind these must be exceptional humans. None of these humans would want me. Anxiety says I am unacceptable this way.

There are so many ways anxiety can screw with a relationship.

Overthinking, imagining worse case scenarios, constant/over communication, over dependence, fear of rejection.

At the opposite end is avoidance. This is where I raise my hand. I’ve never wanted to burden anyone with my feelings so I’ve hidden them. I shut everyone out. I shut off.

Anxiety tells me it’s the right thing to do. That I am better off alone. Unfeeling. But I can’t help but feel lonely sometimes.

The loneliness feeds the anxiety. The anxiety feeds the loneliness.

You can’t win.

And while I am alone I do a lot of self talk.

I am beautiful.

I am kind.

I am not my anxiety.

I am worthy and deserving of the love I seek.

I can’t say for certain that this helps but it does give me someone to talk to. Someone who understands.

Relationships are hard. Especially ones with yourself.

Badasses are us

People call me a badass. I don’t know why. I’ve never done a badass thing in my life. I’ve done some stupid things. Ok, A LOT of stupid things, but never a badass thing. Recently I’ve been told I am brave. Brave for being open about my mental illness. I wouldn’t call it brave. Honest, yes, brave, no. It’s through my honesty that I am healing myself. It’s selfish really. I’m not doing it for anyone else. It’s my well being I’m thinking of.

I had no choice. Hiding how I felt and what I was going through wasn’t working. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t afraid to open up. Some people knew, but now I was going to let the world know. What would the reaction be?

Right now approximately 450 million people suffer from mental health conditions. Most of them never receive any form of care. Why?

Stigma

It’s the biggest barrier to mental health care.

Crazy, weird, unstable. These are just a few of the terms still used. Society is still uneducated and ill informed when it comes to mental health issues. It’s no wonder why those who suffer are afraid to get help. Admitting to having a mental illness might cost you your job! That is the sad reality.

I’m lucky. My workplace has just accepted it as part of who I am. If I’m having a bad day I tell them. We figure it out.

I believe everyone should be so fortunate.

And so I’m going to talk about mental health and mental illness. A lot.

It’s time to remove the stigma.

It’s not a badass move on my part. It’s still a selfish one. Why? Because I don’t want to live in a world where I’m looked down upon for having something I didn’t ask for. I don’t want that world for anyone.