I’VE struggled with depression and anxiety for the past six years and, at times, it has made me feel so far from life and so alone.
It festers, as a horrible lie that nags at my brain, telling me there’s no hope and no purpose to my days, convincing me that I have little, if anything, to offer.
For me, the escalating presence of my black dog some six years ago resulted in the breakdown of relationships and the loss of direction.
After spending a number of years working towards my goal of making a career out of being a cyclist, I lost total motivation and developed a paralysing anxiety. I would roll out the door and spend the next three hours mustering with each second only the guts for the next pedal stroke.
On some days the darkness would be so consuming that I’d pull over to the side of the road every 10 minutes just wanting to cry but with no ability for tears, grabbing my helmet and wanting to shake the messiness out of my head.
The real problem was that the feeling didn’t stop when I got home and off the bike, but rather consumed my every waking moment.
Eventually I left the sport and tried to find life and hope elsewhere. I thought that the bike was causing my burden, so I walked away with only bitterness and despair. I had no appreciation of what I had achieved and no real knowledge of what to do next.
Over time it became apparent that it wasn’t the sport that had held me captive and brought incessant conflict to my soul but that my black dog was an illness that spread its fear-filled fingers across all aspects of my life.
Unfortunately there is no quick fix, no magic cure that I can suggest to others in the same space.
That being said, and more importantly, there is hope, even when you can’t see it and when you don’t want to believe in it.
For me it has been a process, one that has over time involved the assistance of psychologists, doctors and support from those who have believed in my future of hope even when I haven’t believed it for myself.
Through this process I have found that my thoughts and feelings can sometimes betray me and paint an untrue picture of my world, filling my heart and mind with doubt and fear where it doesn’t belong.
Due to this I returned to cycling in 2013, beginning my new race against the black dog, desiring to put some distance between us and stop living in his lies.
It has been a far harder road than even I (with my bleak outlook) could have imagined. But with the support of the health.com.au-search2retain cycling team and my personal coach Mark Windsor, alongside the help of professionals and loved ones, progress has been made and my life is not quite so dark.
My goals have been shifted and my role in the sport has become one of finding enjoyment (even when your head tells you it’s all worthless) and personal progress in competition rather than being simply about external success.
I’ve also gradually taken more of a role as an educator, looking out for others in my team and for opportunities to share some of my story in the hope that it will help to give them tools to handle pressure and life better than I have.
My relationships have struggled throughout this journey and I’ve often felt distant and not fully alive.
Acknowledging my need for help and seeking support has been uncomfortable and seemed humiliating but, ultimately, it is that support that helps me move on.