It has been almost 18 months to the day since I had made the decision to speak up and tell someone about how I was suffering with depression and at the time, losing the battle. It has been 6 months since that February night I spoke publicly about it for the first time. After that night, many of you have called, texted, emailed and personally come to me to thank me for speaking out. You have shared stories of your experiences with depression and anxiety.
Last week, the National Alliance of Mental Illness posted a blog about Olympians being able to prove living with a mental illness does not make a person weak. In the article, Laura Greenstein stated that if the percentages were correct than there are approximately 110 of the 554 US Olympians competing in Rio right now are living, competing and succeeding with a mental illness. Her hypothesis as to why more athletes hadn't spoken up, "Probably stigma. Athletes want to be viewed as strong and empowered, and rightly so. They don’t want the public shaming them for any type of issue or condition, but especially one that is so heavily stigmatized in our society."
Although I am not an olympian, I do pride myself on pushing myself as a cyclist beyond what most people see as conceivable. Fear of the stigma IS the reason why it took me over 10 years to say something. While I have learned ways to lessen or shorten the effects of an "episode" through therapy, nothing has helped more than reflecting back on the stories which have been shared with me. Knowing I am not battling alone. Knowing there are many others who are living with a mental illness while leading highly respected lives.
At the time of my speaking up, I didn't think I could hurt anymore than I already was. In hindsight, it has been the most therapeutic action I have ever made. Join me in encouraging everyone who may be living with a story to SpeakUp as we share this message across the nation during the toughest bicycle race in the world, the Race Across America.
We have a goal of raising $50,000 for the Cameron K Gallagher Foundation. By making a 100% tax deductible donation to the CKG Foundation you will not only help me spread this message of living stigma free but also give the CKG Foundation the power to reach young adults who are suffering from depression and anxiety.
The true power of our stories however, lay in their ability to end the stigma. Our "me too" stories hold the power to not only lift someone up but more importantly they are the wrecking ball to the wall the stigma surrounding mental illnesses have been allowed to build around us.