How I got here. (8 months on)
I feel like now is the perfect time to recap the past 8 months, and share with you readers, who perhaps read my blog on my own struggles with depression and anxiety, on my 2016 season thus far. If I think back to the person I was at the start of December last year, who woke up one morning, like any other morning and just said “it’s enough, I can’t go on anymore”. A lot has happened in a short space of time.
How have I turned things around? For one, it is true, that there is a moment where things just become very clear, and they just click. It sounds so cliché, but I had that moment way back in February when I sat down and wrote a blog after Dave Mirra’s unfortunate passing after taking his life. Perspective. I think that is what I have gained in the past few months. A deep realisation that I am so fortunate to be doing what I’m doing, and that being mindful and grateful of that fact, will help me out of a “funk”. One important lesson my mentor has taught me is how to put my emotion into execution. I’ve spoken about this before, and it is something that I try to think about every time I go into a race. However I’m feeling in that moment on the start line, use that emotion and channel into something productive. Whether that emotion is positive or negative. On top of that, I’ve realised that this is one chapter of my life, and perhaps the most important chapter in my self-development. I feel that hopefully the choices I am making now in my 20’s are setting me up for the person I strive to be in the future. Sport has taught me a lot about character, morals and values in life. In the words of one of my idols, “you will be the same person, before, during and after the event”. Which basically mean to me, at the end of the day, how many race wins you have, how much money you make, how many Instagram followers you gain, should not change who you are inside.
I’ve learnt how to be happy. It is as simple as that. How have I found this happiness? Well. For one, I’ve tried to let go of my issues with food, which let me tell you, is fucking hard. Particularly in a sport where power to weight and body image is thrown in your face on a daily basis. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder since 2008. I still remember the first time it reared its ugly head. When I started losing control of things in my life with family, relationships, uni and sport. I guess I wanted to gain that control back, and also punish myself at the same time. That’s how bulimia starts. I could look in the mirror every day, and find a flaw, usually hone in on a few of the same spots. I would love to get to the point where I can just let go, but I’m not sure if I will ever be able to fully get over my issues with body image. And I know I’m not the only one, it’s more prevalent now in modern society due to this world we live in. It’s actually quite scary when I open up about my own eating issues, how many other athletes have then shared theirs. Our relationship with food is definitely love / hate. And I know this is something I will struggle with for the rest of my life. The difference now, is I have learnt coping mechanisms to del with it. I’ve accepted me for who I am, I’ve recognised these weaknesses, and now I’m trying to improve upon my self.
We are a constant work in progress. At the end of last year, my eating disorder got so bad, that it crippled me into quitting cycling. I’ve worked through it now, and I can honestly and happily say that it is no longer an issue. I struggle with saying these words usually, but this is one thing I am truly proud of. The fact I have worked through this, and I can say to you, that you can work through it too. You just have to find that happy place. And for me that is coming from life balance. I don’t feel crippled by my anxiety anymore, and I am fully aware that it is something I will perhaps struggle with through life if I allow myself to be consumed by it. By having an incredible support network around me, clear cut goals within sport and outside sport, I’ve been able to work through an incredibly challenging period in my life.
Mental illness is not mental weakness. This is a point I want to make very clear if there is something you take away from reading this. We are who we are in the end, and if you can learn to be a little more self aware, I believe you will become less critical of yourself, and therefore more receptive to improving yourself.
Words: Loren Rowney