I’ve not blogged for a while, but I’m back in the mood again. I’ve also decided it’s time I “came out”, as it were. The topic isn’t something I’ve actually been hiding very much, and most friends who know me in real life will already know. The issue? In April this year I was diagnosed with severe depression.
However, I’ve not written about it, despite it being the underlying cause of a crap summer season in many respects. That season seemed bad enough to write about when I just described the effects, not the cause! It was blood pressure fluctuations caused by antidepressants that led to me fainting after that 100m in early June. I broke my thumb in that fall. It was depression that robbed me of the get up and go that I needed in the European Masters 100m heats, too.
I’ve been on a strong dose of antidepressants for more than six months now. They work, most of the time. This was underlined by the recent experiment on reduced dosage that my GP has put me through. Bit of a disaster that. Sorry to those who’ve realised I’ve been “off the map” for most of the last month. That really wasn’t fun!
I’ve also had huge help from many friends. From the outset, Ken Stone and his wife Chris, in the USA understood, and gave great guidance. My anonymous post on Ken’s Masterstrack web site, about training and racing while on my medication, attracted fabulous advice from other Masters, going well beyond my initial question. It all made me realise that (sad to say) my condition was nothing special. Figures vary, but generally it seems accepted that about one in 4 people will experience some form of mental illness in their lives. I have had the most uplifting, touching and practical help from those who have been through it, and those who are still there. My decision to write about my depression was built on a decision recently , that it was time I started providing some optimistic comment, personal experience, and comfort, even, to others.
So, fellow athletes, readers of this blog: Depression is ghastly. It will change your life, maybe for a short while, maybe for a long time, but you can live with it. It need not define you as a person. Indeed, you must not let it define you. I am still an athlete. I do not see myself as a depressed athlete, just an athlete coping with depression. It affects my motivation to train. The medication affects my energy, and the quality of my training. But as a very good, and very well qualified friend and track colleague said to me “What choice do you really have? (about taking the meds) What’s your quality of life going to be like if you don’t take them?” But you can survive, and at times you’ll thrive like you always used to. I blogged my pride at winning a bronze at the British Masters this year, and I was really proud just to be able to attend the European Masters, even if not running anywhere near my best.
I’ve had a rubbish month, but I’m still around. I’m training. It’s hard, but it’s supposed to be hard. There are side effects to the meds, but training hurts anyway. I’ll leave it there for now. It’s preparation time for the indoor season, and I’ll keep you posted on that.