Time I levelled with you.

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.

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9 Responses to “Time I levelled with you.”

  1. Gary Says:

    Tom, how courageous of you to come out as it will and talk about your personal strife with depression, it has made me take a step back and look at what I as a national caliber master’s sprinter am going through right now and it will also help the students whom I speak to about this often not spoken about issue. In my 50 years of sprinting never have I suffered through an injury as I am right now, I sustained my first ever knee injury this past summer and it appears my sprinting days may be over, and depression has set in, I feel lost as my master friends are enjoying their Fall training getting prepared for indoor season while I can only watch and time their intervals and conduct whistle starts for them, they don’t say much but I can read their minds, “poor guy”. I’ve thought about moving up to road running but I can’t jog more than 5 minutes, right now I’m regulated to stationary biking and upper body work, not much excitement, and it’s not sprinting. I’m sure this empty feeling will leave in due time but after reading your blog I’m going to pick my chin up and move forward one step at a time, never quit I tell my student audience, good luck Tom and thank you for an informative and inspiring blog, I know I’m not alone.

    • tomsprints Says:

      Thanks Gary. I’m glad I wrote that, and you’ve helped justify my decision not to continue to write around the issue in my blogs. I’ve been far more forthcoming with people I know well, but “going public” was different. Risk of sounding self-pitying etc, which I wanted to avoid, because that’s not where I am. I’ll tell the whole story one day, I expect. Mine really begins with reaching 4th in the Worlds in Lahti at 200 and 5th at 100, and then finding a small voice in my head telling me that “this might be as good as it ever gets”! Much more to it, of course, but tell your budding champions that even success (modest though mine was), can hide some pitfalls! Take care of that knee.

  2. Lou Says:

    Depression doesn’t define you. But what it does for some people is give you a lifelong empathy for others temporarily or permanently disabled by mental health conditions. A sensitivity.

    You are a brave brave man for admitting this here, no matter what you may think because societies attitude to mental health is still in the dark ages, sadly.

    • tomsprints Says:

      Yeah, you are right, but it took time to find that out. Sport seems to tolerate injury better than illness, it seems. The real up-side for me was the number of really great friends I have on the track who understood, supported and helped, and still do.

  3. paulbrook76 Says:

    Hi Tom
    Just read this after seeing your comment on my blog. It’s excellent, and I’m pleased to see someone else being so open about their depression – though never pleased to see people going through it, of course!
    I fainted myself the first night I took antidepressants so that rang a few bells.
    All the best – I hope you’re doing really well now.
    Paul

  4. Someone Saved My Life Tonight « Blog from a Faster Master Says:

    […] regular reader of this blog will recall it was eight full months before I felt able to blog about depression. In the meantime, that “high functioning depressive” continued to wear his “normal person” […]

  5. “Psychotherapy” | Blog from a Faster Master Says:

    […] By way of explanation, rather than apology, I’ll begin by saying that this is a therapeutic blog for me. I need to put some thoughts down to help me make sense of them. However, I’m going to put it out as a blog, because I know how bad I felt a couple of years ago hiding behind a smiley face when, behind the mask, things were not right. […]

  6. Trouble in Shangri-La | Blog from a Faster Master Says:

    […] the press etc recently of sports people suffering from depression and other mental health issues. Go back on this blog a few years and you’ll find that I was part of that gang too. It’s an area of my life I don’t revisit […]

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