Tonight I had to decline a Skype call with my boyfriend. It was gut wrenching because we keep only just missing each other for most of the time I have been back. Today was one of those exhausting days which have rendered me useless without a keyboard.
It’s hard to imagine being sad in paradise right? I’m living on a tropical island, fulfilling a dream most athletes never do. So why the long face, you ask?
Aside from the normal stuff, being homesick and away from family and friends, I also suffer from clinical depression.
Back home in Oz, I have found the topic of depression to not be quite so taboo these days. People have been very open and accepting once I share this information and often I have had someone respond to me by saying they also suffer from depression.
I really wanted to share my experience of this with you, because of the impact it has on my training and well being, and hopefully this can shed some light to those who have not shared this experience with someone else, or to those out there in my shoes – we are not alone!
When I was diagnosed last year, I was in incredibly bad shape. For days at a time I would only leave my bed to use the toilet. No showers, sometimes no food, no sunlight and very minimal contact with my friends. It was easy to see that I was depressed once I was diagnosed but I struggled with my emotions for about a year before my house mate suggested I see a medical professional.
My work environment was toxic, for over a year. The pressure of my job and the person I worked for, pushed me down so far that I couldn’t function. I used to train twice a day (before and after work) and loved it. It was the highlight of my days. But one day I noticed, I just didn’t want to go. So I didn’t. I made all the excuses under the sun (sorry to my old trainer if you’re reading this!!). I’m sick. I have a headache. I have uni work. I have to stay back late at work. My house mate is locked out of the house. I’ll be in tomorrow, I promise! I am not suggesting that often these weren’t valid reasons, but I used them to get out of something I loved. My integrity was at an all time low.
Once I was diagnosed I was put on a medium dose of anti depressants – ones to regulate my serotonin levels. I was warned it would take some time for these to have any noticeable impact and was instructed to take leave from work. I did this, however, it led to me leaving a giant imprint of myself and my fat cats, on the lounge.
My doctor saw me once a week to make sure I would leave the house – some days I couldn’t even do that. After a few weeks of medication, copious amounts of day time TV and sleep, my doctor advised me to start exercising again. The intention was for me to physically leave my house. It didn’t have to be much, just a walk around the block would suffice.
I decided that returning to my gym in Melbourne might do me some good. Not necessarily to train, but to be somewhere I felt safe and looked after. Absolute MMA was already a second home to me, with all my extended family, so I felt ok being surrounded by so many people who just loved me, no matter what.
Unfortunately while this was all unfolding, I had been matched to fight. I was doing my utmost to stall training but I had to return if I wanted to fight. There are no words to describe how tough it was.
When I finally decided to return, I confided in a friend and staff member who offered me his own time to help me get back to training and get me ready for my fight. Without this guy (Handsome Dan, you know who you are! :P) I may have never gotten back in the ring with the way I felt. He sat with me when I cried, when I felt like I couldn’t do anything. He encouraged me even when I sucked. He let me kick and punch him (probably because he knew I had no power!) and without him knowing, he became a critical person in my steps to becoming myself again. I could never say it big enough, or loud enough, but thank you.
I went on to fight. I cried more during that fight camp then any other period in my life, with the exception of my parents passings. My friends were incredible rocks for me the whole way through and really carried me. While I went on to lose my fight, it was the first time I had felt joy in what felt like a lifetime. That was the moment I knew I had found something so therapeutic and calming, that it would be to my own detriment to give it up.
If you fast forward to my life right now, I am pleased to say that I am doing much better. I am about 8 months down the road since my diagnosis and most days, I feel like my happy bubbly self.
Fatigue and diet play a big part in the way I feel, so often when I am exhausted, I feel depressed, and low in general. Training here makes it tough because sometimes I really have to force myself to go and sometimes in between sessions, I just don’t want to see or speak to anyone.
My depression is still the big elephant in the room for me. I struggle to leave me room some days, and only force myself to go to training because I know I have a fight coming up. When I’m having, what I like to call, a mental health day, my energy is low and it 100% affects my training. I usually have no power, or I feel lazy. Some days I can want nothing more than to train, then when I get to training, I don’t want to be there. It’s a constant, frustrating battle, one that I may never win, but fighters, we live to fight another day right?
At the end of the day, fighting has given me something positive to focus my energy on. I don’t need to win, but I can remind myself of how much I love Muay Thai, and how grateful I am to be on this journey.
Friends and family (both blood and other) will always support you and help you ride the waves. The biggest lesson I’ve had to learn is to surrender some of my independence and lean on my friends every once in a while. They don’t mind, and these days, neither do I.