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  • Russell Brenner

    @Loren, I’m not sure if you’ll see these comments or not, but know that you’re not alone. Elite athlete or not, depression and anxiety are a bitch. As a MDD/BP2 sufferer myself, an ex-amateur athlete who went through a helluva time post-athletic career (thanks hips), and as a fellow South African: depression is the worst. The best advice I can offer you is to speak about it with as many trusted friends and family as you can, seek professional help as it’s something that can be managed and find a coping mechanism outside of achievement, especially outside of sport. Psychiatrists don’t all treat you with drugs, good ones do exist. Psychologists aren’t all full of floury advice, people who will challenge and help are out there.

    Fear of failure is only part of it. Us “A-typers”, and given your description it sounds like you are a classic A-typer, out to succeed and putting 100% of yourself into everything you do, where only two modes exist, on and off, are seriously vulnerable to mental illness. I’ve read countless books about, and by, the intelligent intellectual overachievers who suffer. It’s a blessing and a curse: to be good but to also feel so alone and vulnerable. To be desperately sad, hopeless and, at times, wanting it to all end.

    The difference you can make, so you don’t become a statistic, so you aren’t just another person defined by their disease, is to talk about it. Stand up and be proud, the article you’ve written is a fantastic first step and that’s not even considering the quality of its prose.

    Good luck. Fight the good fight, and know there are more mental illness sufferers who understand, appreciate, and want to support you. Even those who don’t suffer from mental illness, as I said, your friends and family, do not hesitate to confide, speak openly, keep the conversation going and maintain your life for what it is: one filled with future, hope and integrity.

    • Loren Rowney

      Thanks so much for the message Russell. And you’re 100% right. We need to keep the conversation going!

      • Russell Brenner

        I think that athletes heavily rely on their sport for support, and should be noted. Sport and exercise is good, I’ve no idea what the life of professional athletes is like, but I suspect it’s not far off amateur ones dedicated to their interests: eat, train, sleep, repeat. Your friends are those who compete with and against you. It’s never good, at least from my personal experience (YMMV), to rely on any one thing to keep you afloat. Diversity is good.

  • Craig

    Well done Loren, for having the courage to share your story, and for doing what you can to inspire others. Best wishes on your continued journey.

    • Loren Rowney

      Thanks Craig :)

  • Pinkie Boadicea, PhD

    Good for you for coming out and saying something! I couldn’t help but notice the tone of your post, though, is very self blaming. You blame yourself for being a procrastinator, for not having the strength to not fall down the rabbit hole. That’s not how depression works. It’s not your fault and quite frankly there’s nothing you can do about it when it takes you. It’s like getting injured, the more you fight it, the longer it takes to heal. So don’t feed the beast by thinking that you did something to cause the depression, or that it’s up to you to get over it. That’ll just wear you out more.

    You, and all the other people suffering.

    • jules

      great point. it may help to think of all the people in the world who are just hopelessly incompetent, lazy, selfish, cruel – but still walk around like their shit doesn’t stink. while these people annoy me intensely, you have to admire their ability to manage to rise above all of the reasons they should – by all rights – hate themselves.

      point being – it’s about how you perceive yourself, as much or probably more than what you actually achieve or do.

    • Loren Rowney

      Thanks for the words. I’m constantly working on myself…and that is certainly something that is a constant work in progress, not blaming myself :)

  • Russell Brenner

    A paper of general interest (there are many other casual and scholarly articles recently written, Google can help you discover them). This one discusses something that I think CT may have covered already: intense training can exacerbate mental illness. http://www.hdbp.org/psychiatria_danubina/pdf/dnb_vol26_sup1/dnb_vol26_sup1_208.pdf

    • warnschild

      Also, there’s an interesting study (actually, it’s two publications) on football players and their experience with mental illness: http://www.fifpro.org/en/news/new-research-links-severe-injuries-to-mental-illness-in-football

      Furthermore, University of Cologne in Germany have started a project to prevent mental illness with professional athletes of all sport. They say the project was started at the basis of data showing a massively growing number of mental issues amongst athletes:

      In my opinion, there are several factors that come into play:
      1. Athletes indeed do want to be at the very top at every single time.
      2. Preassure is high (sponsors, teams, family, fans, friends,…)
      3. Many have grown up within the athletic scene and don’t know anything but that kind of life and way of defining themselves
      4. A lot is done to enhance performance, physically as well as psychologically. But do those measures really guarantee physical and mental health and well-being of the athletes on the long run as well as independently from their “athletic existence”? Are they really about making them be well and healthy or simply about making them perform at their best at competition?

      (This just to put together a few fragments of thoughts that came into my mind with regard to the matter.)

      Thank you very much for sharing, Loren!

  • roklando

    Thanks for this, and for stepping out to talk about it; communication is key but sometimes so hard to just reach out it’s very encouraging to read how others deal with these issues. Stay strong

  • NeilvdP

    Good on you for sharing Loren! I blame Kanye West- he has clearly somehow stolen millions of individuals self-love, and now hogs it all! The love for oneself is still there, it just needs to be re-distributed more equally!

    • jules

      speaking of romance, is it true you also got up close and personal with everyone’s favorite Manxman who is not Cav?

      • NeilvdP

        Haha, yep, raced him all week! Probably just a week long fling, I don’t imagine any feelings will last.

        • Mark O’Brien

          Haha You’re a funny man Vandy. Good on you Loren for sharing your story, very interesting read.

  • Andy B

    I think having the right person in your life to talk to is extremely important, in your own head the simplest things can become a dark hole if you only consult yourself and listen to your own thoughts, Its so easy to dwell on the negatives

    Having someone that knows how your brain works and can snap you out of this is a must, it can be hard to start the conversation or find that person
    You are lucky to have that in your father, a figure that is usually a rock in ones life (I think my parents just think i’m weird or secretive for being how I am)

    Remember its likely never as bad as you tell yourself it is (guilty of this)

  • slowman

    thanks Loren, the courage to speak up, talk about your deepest fears, and your darkest moments shows who is in control. i just wish i had the courage you do. maybe one day

  • MattF

    This is by far the most courageous post I have ever read from an elite cyclist. Good for you Loren and CT too. I have suffered from depression too and the best advice I can offer is to keep talking – to loved ones, friends, mental health professionals and, as you’ve done here, the general public. I wish you the very best.

  • Nicola

    Thanks Loren for sharing. Mental illness is just that – ‘illness’ and by talking openly more of us will understand and accept it.

  • Herman Hanson

    Thank you for this. My comments are completely anecdotal. For me it highlights that depression is by degrees. Some people can recognise it in themselves and “self-medicate” (not always just with conventional medicine), understanding what this means and being able to evaluate the effects. Others cannot; sometimes with very tragic consequences. A doctor commented that an unmedicated manic depressive didn’t have the control to take their own life, medication sometimes gave them this control. A scary thought.

    I am trying to help myself by understanding that just about everyone has similar doubts and fears of some sort. Life is a lot about managing them, rationalising them, trying to overcome them, living with them and seeking help when you feel you cannot. Then it is to obtain satisfaction from your achievements and try and positively manage the total, often selfish, tunnel vision that got you there. A close friend who teetered on the edge of going pro described this as being able to see ” the madness in their eyes; they were going to beat you, whatever it took”. So it is about balance.

  • mkurita

    Depression is tough. The reality of being depressed over a long period of time is so sapping of vitality. For me, I use metaphors from cycling to relate to depression. First, the words we use are real – real in the psychological sense, but like dirt on a chain, they build up slowly until they stop allowing clear decisions to occur, like how a dirty chain stops crisp shifting.

    Second, the words we use in our minds need to change from negative to positive to prevent them from piling up and gumming up the system of clear thought. So instead of having a problem (negative word) that needs to be fixed (negative word) because it is broken (negative word), see a challenge (positive words that needs to be turned into manageable goals (positive construction of words).

    Third, because psychology is much more complicated than a clean drivetrain, it is vital to our mental health that we give ourselves some slack to deal with real pressures – some are internal, some external. Know to divide them, then to manage each separately so as to be aware of where your stressors are coming from.

    Fourth, it can be bewildering to find the source of stress, and so yes, like taking your bike to a pro to isolate that annoying creak, take yourself to a pro and let them find the problem. The solution is harder to hear at times because the tools are words and words can be so flitting. Keep this in mind: words are real to your psychology, so they do have an effect, and the ones the pros give you – mind them like you would the highest end tools for bike maintenance – they are essential to getting back on track.

    Fifth, the inability to make clear decisions is my benchmark for depression creep. Take a moment to objectively take good stock of the decisions you’ve made to help build up the sense of clear thought. Like brushing your teeth means you’ve decided that you need good oral hygiene and is a goal that you can keep in check. Move from the basics and into more fundamental goals. It’s surprising how they all intertwine and are balanced with one another.
    Sixth, don’t discount being social as avoiding your problems. If it helps your mental health, then what’s the problem? It helps! Enjoy it, be in the moment to really be appreciative of those times to just not worry about your mental health. It’s a relief isn’t it so why complicate it?
    Seventh, stop making things complicated to figure out. Well, that’s an oversimplification, but break down the complicated stuff into simple stuff. Remember, clear decisions: clean drivetrain: better shifting when shit goes uphill.
    Eight, and the hardest for anyone: Quitting or worse, going backwards. Sometimes that just what you’ve gotta do. The race is too hard, gotta quit. The injury is too bad, gotta quit. Reinvent. It’s the only way to take on a change like that. You’re going to have to just work hard at trying to put together a new strategy, a new perspective. And you know what hard work is. That is a plus, you have that knowledge in spades. Just keep trying to reinvent.
    That’s all I’ve got, I hope the best for anyone that is carrying the weight of depression. It is just such a heavy burden.

  • Darren Spina

    Thank you for having the courage to write this article Loren. The more we talk about mental illness the better it is for the person trying to cope with it and for non-sufferers as well. All the best for the rest of the season.

  • a.t.

    Sounds like somebody I would want to be friends with! A person who empathises and looks within contrasting the all too frequent transactional person wondering how they can benefit off you. Don’t change, you’re on an important mission. Keep your depth and confront the dark clouds then let them pass by.


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