The following blog entry was submitted to me with the request to share their story anonymously and is the first in the #MTBMENTALHEALTH series. Please read and if you find it resonates with you or might help someone you know please share.
“So yeah… Mental health.
It’s one of the things I thought was only more prominent in the not so tough-minded individuals with no grit to push through, those with no “Just get it done” or, my own favourite, “fuck it” attitude.
As I’ve grown more mature into my young adult years, I realise now that adult responsibilities and trying to handle life as well as I can, that day to day living for many people can be a struggle.
Poor mental health is a very serious issue for many and like all illnesses mental health does not discriminate.
So if you will, let me tell you about myself and how mental health affects me and has affected me over recent years.
I’m a well known bike rider and racer and have been for a number of years.
I am a doggo daddo, a partner to a beautiful person, a full time worker, international mountain biker alongside that follow a full time training schedule, all before the usual day to day life of managing a home and a life.
I can’t go to in depth as you would be reading this for a week, but here are some of the hurdles that face me in day to day life as “Me”.
Anyone reading will understand this part I’m sure. Holding down a full time job can be hard when you are juggling so many other things in your life that mean something to you. It may be family, friends, hobbies, sports, anything at all and if you do you will know that it can wear you down. For most of my working life i have worked in physically demanding jobs. I wouldn’t be surprised if a doctor could physically put me down for someone ten even twenty years older than I actually am. I’m a grafter I always have been and I always will be.
Training after work is sometimes not pleasurable, sometimes I overdo it and sometimes I feel great but other times I really question what am I doing to myself. Why am I doing this to my body? Grinding it down, recovering, physio then grinding it down again. Is it all for the love of a sport? Or is it what mentally keeps me going? Is the routine keeping me sane?
Professional racers are bulletproof. We never show weakness. Not physically, emotionally or mentally. This is why I have never spoken publicly about my mental health, and why I can’t bring myself to share this with my name attached.
I’m calling bullshit on all of it.
We are selling a lifestyle and people buy into it. It’s one of the reasons why products sell. We are more prone to post positive vibes, images, videos – encouraged by our teams and sponsors – than posting anything negative. All the negative things in life and the more emotional moments are mostly kept out of the public eye and never spoken about or even heard of.
I don’t know how many times the sport I love has caused me to cry, feel low, feel pain and feel overwhelmed but I keep going because as I said I’m a grafter, I don’t like to disappoint people and like to get the job done but I find myself asking, How much longer can I keep this going?
Due to having a lot of passions in my life I tend to spread myself thin.Letting go once I’ve started something just is not an option for me. That then adds to the stress and the need to complete the job I started. One thing I can’t be accused of is not trying and not giving it my best shot. In my life I have been accused of caring too much for something or someone, but I don’t see that as something wrong.
The riding, racing and traveling lifestyle is great, don’t get me wrong, but as I said I don’t know how much longer it can go on.
The risk for reward is massive and after having conversations with my racing friends it’s clear that I am not the only one who feels that way. Throwing ourselves down a hill or mountain for a rush and to achieve goals, to put that brand/company the highest up the ranks as you can is becoming too big a risk for not enough reward. I personally feel that the gap between the two is constantly growing.
But again, my thoughts are neither right or wrong as it totally depends and what you value more. I have achieved titles in this sport that some dream of and I have risked a lot to acheive them.
I am happy, I am content and have I pushed myself to do the best with what I have and what my life consists of – I don’t think I have anything to be ashamed of.
But after a long career of racing I have come to an important realisation.
There are so many more precious things and people in my life that now require and deserve the attention and drive that has been absent for so many years whilst I was away chasing the clock all over the world. It is getting closer and closer to that time they now receive the attention and commitment they have given me for so long to help me achieve my dreams and help fulfil my goals.
I will never stop riding, making videos and taking pictures out on my bike but I will stop chasing that clock one day. Do I want to? No not really but I think I have to, more so for my own well being in all aspects – physically, emotionally and mentally.
It’s no secret that I do struggle. One minute I will be sitting chilled out then the next minute I’m pacing up and down the corridor, with lots on my mind, feeling very uneasy, anxious, nervous with no escape. Until recently I haven’t asked for any help or even spoke about it with anyone, not just about the struggles of maintaining this perfect image of the racing lifestyle, but in my day to day life too.
You can only keep it burning on all ends for so long.
This is my first time writing about my mental health and although I have a lot more to cover about other aspects of my life, I wanted to get the biggest of all the weights off of my shoulders for this one. I won’t lie this was not easy for me.
Please if you are reading this, understand that even the people you see online whose lives seem so easy also struggle. So many people make it look like their life is hassle free on social media but you never know what they are going through. You are not alone, not by a long shot.
Do what you know you should do and talk to someone, anyone. It is the best thing I think you can do.
“Your health is your wealth”
Do you have #MTBMENTALHEALTH story you want to share but not ready to go public? Email me for anonymous submissions.