I started in Ride Don’t Hide last summer after a difficult, but worthwhile, road of recovery. In the summer of 2016, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder, depression, generalized anxiety and panic disorder.
Ride Don’t Hide brings a community. This community is filled with people who are passionate about mental health and bringing awareness. This community is filled with people who are in recovery or know someone who struggles through mental illness. This community is filled with people who want to bring the same care that society has for physical health to mental health. For me, Ride Don’t Hide showed me I was not alone with my mental health. It showed me that other people just like me go through their own ups and downs with their recovery and that is okay.
Mental illness has impacted my life in a huge way; but I would not change anything, because it has brought me to where I am today. It brought me to where I can speak openly about my struggles with mental illness and try to end the stigma. The stigma surrounding mental illness is what society needs to change. For myself, as an athlete, I realized that so many athletes go through depression, anxiety and an eating disorder but so many are in the dark. So many are silenced or are scared that they will be perceived as weak. To me, this is not okay. It is not okay to be in the dark alone going through mental illness when it is the time in your life when you need the most support.
Ride Don’t Hide came to me in a time in my life when I had no idea where I was heading. Ironically, it led me to the path of cycling and changing sports. Through the difficulties of mental illness, the one thing that has always been there for me is my cycling. If I am having a rough day with my depression or anxiety, I know my escape is through cycling. Cycling gives me the freedom that everybody deserves. Since being part of Ride Don’t Hide, I have been more open about my story and trying to make a change in the world of mental health.
Ride Don’t Hide gave me more in one summer than I could ever ask for. It gave me freedom from my illness and tore away the label that I thought everybody could see. If you are struggling with mental illness, I want you to know this is not the end. There is more to you than your diagnosis. It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to ask for help through these tough times. It is okay to see a therapist and talk about what is going on. It is okay to be on medication and that does not make you “weird” in any way.
It is okay to have a rough day. It is okay to cancel and reschedule things if you just can’t get out of bed. But, most of all, you deserve that freedom and self care. The freedom and self care can be anywhere from watching TV to going on a bike ride to just going for a walk but, take time for you because you deserve it.