A letter to the people in my life, and for anyone else who knows someone struggling mentally:
Given the circumstances of the last week, and my lifestyle the last few years really, I should have anticipated the likelihood of a relapse. The truth is, I have been sick for months but I chose to put my goals and team before my health. I knew this, my psychiatrist knew this, and my family knew this- and I regret nothing. However, I did not anticipate how the loss of a dream would feel. Every morning since, I wake up and am surprised the sky isn’t falling. Sounds dramatic right? After all it is just a game. Wrong. Elite sport is more than sport. It is a lifestyle, a mindset and a full-time job. And, it is a long-term commitment to 20+ others who choose to do the same.
The statistics say that 1 in 4 people experience mental illness in their lifetime- 450 million people at this very moment. Now, imagine all those people have families, friends, colleagues, and neighbours that they interact with. That’s a lot of people that mental health effects.
I have been thinking about this idea a lot lately. When I went through my first depressive episode in university I wanted to hide it for my own selfish reasons. I was embarrassed, guilty and ashamed. And although I do feel those things frequently, now I want to hide my illness to protect the people in my life that matter most. I want my parents to be able to sleep at night. I want my sister and boyfriend to be able to focus solely on school. I want my teammates to feel free to grieve the Olympic qualifier loss in their own way and not have to tip-toe around me. I don’t want to let my illness infect everyone around me because it hurts and they do not deserve it. But I promised myself years ago that I would never hide again.
So, to my loved ones I’m sorry I’m hurting you. I promise in time I will be ok. Be patient with me. A friend once posted a quote on Instagram that said, “I don’t want you to save me. I want you to stand by my side as I save myself,” and it is true. No one person can “fix” someone going through a rough patch. What you can do is hold their hand. Cheer them on. Watch a crap movie with them (even when it is crap). Listen to them when they need someone to listen. Ask them how you can help, but don’t be frustrated if the person doesn’t know exactly what they need. Let them make choices. Give them space, but invite them to join you in activities when you have time. Avoid assuming things. And most importantly, love them for the unique person they are. Depression is an illness not a personality trait.
Mental illness is brutal, but supporting someone with mental illness is just as brutal. Talking about mental illness is brave, but sticking by someone who has mental illness is heroic. I am SO thankful for you.
Ps. This too shall pass;
9 Replies to “A letter…”
I’m so sorry you feel this way Hans…from the other side of this big old world please know that I am here for you! Remember there are books to read and share, stationary stores to explore, house and home decor to discuss, candles to light and coffees to be had. When you are ready…rise up! Sending you BIG HUGS and much love.
With you all the way always, Lini. So proud of you.
You are so brave to tell people. A problem aired is a problem shared. We are all here by your side
What a beautiful, courageous testimony. You don’t have to figure out everything all at once. Breath and take it day by day.
If you feel like you’re losing everything, remember that trees lose their leaves every year and they still stand tall and wait for better days to come.
I am sure that people that matters to you understand and appreciate what’s in the bottom of that iceberg. These attributes and struggles are integral part of what makes you so special not only as a Pro Athlete but as a person. You are an inspiration to many, you are strong, you will get better.
Big Hug Hannah!
You belong to a team, you are part of something bigger! Don’t you ever think you are alone!
Cheers and remember sport always gives you a second chance 🙌🏽.
Hugs and kisses and tears and joy for you Hannah, for always. XXOO
Although you may feel alone … you are never alone. Many of us in your sport community – your extended family are there too… holding space at your side. Ready to listen. Ready to act if necessary. The waves will continue to roll and we roll with you. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for no longer hiding and allowing those who care deeply and have shared experiences to find a voice with you ❤️
Hannah this so beautiful and well written. I’m so sorry you’re going through this and your so strong to be so open about it. Know that i’m thinking of you and wishing you the best. Although we live far apart and do not talk often, I am always here if you need me. ❤