Amongst other recent happenings in our small community, last week, the professional biker, 23 year old Kelly Catlin killed herself. She is a three time biking World Track Champion and 2016 Rio silver medalist. You can read the article about her successes here. I opened up a dialogue on my Facebook page and got some really good answers about athletes and depression. David Finney noted, “High level endurance athletes spend a lot of time by themselves training, and if you’re prone to getting lost in your own dark thoughts, that can lead to tragic consequences.” Other people put the direct blame on our American healthcare system and not giving people the ability to be properly treated for depression. Adding in, a therapist is usually not covered under insurance and are around 150$ to 200$ per hours. There are other athletes who are predisposed to depression and suicidal thoughts and may not want to talk about it.
In the movie “Free Solo”, Alex Honnold is asked “are you depressed?”, the filming cut before he answered the question, though he did pause while thinking about it. He later answered the question on a podcast, “Yes. I think I gravitate towards being a somewhat depressed human.” Alex, from the outside, has it all. He has a net worth of 2 million dollars and a house in Las Vegas. He has royalties and high paying sponsors. With the release of “Free Solo” he has pretty much become a household name.
Athletes put both physical and mental stress on themselves while training. Some may even use the training to hide the dark feelings they are having but, what happens after the event is over, after the cameras are gone, after the congratulations end? Where do athletes go from the top? It is a lonely place up there, a lot of sacrifices have happened to get to that spot. Despite being the worlds’ most successful competitive swimmer, Michael Phelps opened up about depression after multiple DUI’s and even started a partnership with Talkspace, an online therapy program.
Training for an extended time at a high caliber, athletes put themselves before their relationships, their friendships, and their families. It is a selfish endeavor to take on. Some family members may not understand, the same with friends. Friend bases wane as the years go on and athletes long for deep connections with their friends. Social media may also be a contributing factor. People only post the positive things, the times that are good, the times they want to celebrate. Humans get caught in their own heads and ask “why are they more happy than me, why am I struggling so much, why do I have these feelings, why am I alone?”.
I am not yet ready to air my personal feelings out on a blog but, I am lucky to have a very small group of people who support and love me, no matter what I decide to do. What I will open up to is, yes, I have feelings of depression and failure, for multiple different reasons. Katie Dean noted on my Facebook page, “Depression and suicidal thoughts do not discriminate based on socioeconomic status or athletic successes.” That reigns true every day. Remember, you never know where people are mentally and treat everyone with love and gratitude. Let’s all take a step to open a dialogue about depression and suicide, it could save someone in the future.