Below is a blog I wrote for my tri club's website. We have asked members to share their stories related to mental health. The bravery and courage of so many women encouraged me to finally write my story down. It took me a long time to write this, but it was a huge step for me!
My Biggest Fan
My dad was always my biggest fan. He supported me in each and every aspect of my life. Some of my best memories, however, are being on the soccer field with my dad on the sideline. He actually paced the sidelines cheering, “Let’s go Skate!” My dad traveled hours for games that I played in for five minutes. He woke up very early, after working all night, to be at the first whistle of every game. Vacations were scheduled around soccer tournaments. In college, I had to convince him it was crazy to drive two and a half hours to watch me play an intramural soccer game. He was always encouraging and supportive. No matter what the outcome of the game, or how I played that day he always welcomed me with a smile and a hug. And of course, like most parents, his favorite past time was bragging about his children. And of course, like most children, I would always turn red with embarrassment. I could never bring myself to stop him because the look of pride on his face filled my heart.
August 20, 2010 I lost my dad to suicide. I have never spoken those words out loud. Not a day has passed that I have not thought about that horrific day. It is still something I am struggling with, and I am not writing this because I have found any answers or peace yet. I am writing this because I want to play a role in ending the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. I want to be comfortable talking about these issues, and I want people who are struggling with these issues to be comfortable admitting it and seeking help.
I wanted to share some of my thoughts that keep me company during my long runs, bike rides, and laps in the pool. Five years prior to his death, my dad suffered a major stroke that took my family on a five year rollercoaster of ups and downs. He suffered from debilitating depression and anxiety at times. Knowing that he needed serious help he checked himself into a crisis center once. My dad tried countless counselors, psychiatrists, neurologists, and medication over the years. He fought hard. As his daughter, it was awful to see him hurt so bad, and not be able to help him. I felt helpless. I drove him to appointments, visited often, and helped out in any way possible; but I always left like I never had the right thing to say. So I didn’t say anything. That is something I regret. I was uncomfortable talking to my dad about depression and anxiety. My advice to people in a similar situation is, speak up! Speak up about your feelings, even if it is just to say you are scared. Speak up to medical professional by asking questions. Then ask more questions. Continue asking questions until you get a clear answer. There are so many people who devote their lives to helping others cope with mental illness. I believe silence helps perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. People do not want to talk about these topics, but we need to. We need to so that we can learn, discover, heal, cope, and survive.
When Lydia announced the charity for the year I knew it was an opportunity for me to step up. I cautiously joined the charity committee to help plan for how we would raise awareness and money to end the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. I am so proud to be a part of this worthy cause to finally get my chance to speak up! I know this is a journey that is just beginning for me, but like all athletes I know the first step is always the hardest.