Mental illness in sports and everyday life

I am without doubt one of the biggest sports fans you will ever come across! There are very few sports that I do not find inspiration from. I use this passion to fuel my learning and knowledge about what makes professional athletes tick. As a performance and mental skills coach I always want to know that drives these people and do they struggle with the pressures of life that we all face day in day out.

Frankie Dettori is arguably one of UK best ever jockeys. Last week, he won his 5th Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on Enable. This claim to fame may not inspire many, but for me I became interested in the man and his journey to success. What I found was a man who had bounced back to the top of his game after overcoming a period of his life coming face to face with the mental illness of depression.

In 2012 he found himself on a slippery slide from being no.1 in the world to a place where everything started to go wrong and no one wanted him anymore. This impacted his self-esteem, his belief in himself and caused issues in his family life. Consequently, to escape his reality of depression he selected drugs to help him deal with his world around him. He got caught and paid the price of shame and being banned from the sport he loved for a period of time.

His actions may have been a cry for help or based on a fear of failure, but for me it amplifies the fact that everyone has the risk of finding themselves in a dark place where we feel alone and the world is crumbling around us. “Why me?” We want to reach out for help, reassurance and someone to tells us “you are ok !” , but we get caught in a downward spiral. We seem paralyzed unable to see a positive future. We believe no one cares and we isolate ourselves out of fear people will see us as weak.

I do not know about you, but I have found myself in this situation many times. I feel alone, fear, stress, anxiety and doubt in my abilities. I question why others around me are succeeding and I am not? What am I doing wrong ? There’s a strong sense of overwhelm with the situation, but somehow, through these challenging times I have found an inner strength to keep going and not give up. I believe a strong part of this is due to finding and reading stories like Frankie’s. They serve to remind me I am not the only one who struggles with mental issues and that’s ok! It does not make you or me a lesser person. We do not have to face these issues on our own. Help is there if you need it.

If you are living with, or suspect you may be living with depression, or are experiencing negative emotions, or generally feeling down and need help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, beyond blue on 1300 224 636, or Headspace on 1800 650 890. Alternatively, talk to your doctor, local health professional, or myself today if you need help.





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