Ian Thorpe has spoken about his struggles with his mental health in the past, but today he opened up in a much different way. In Young Minds Matters, which is a new series launch by the Huffington Post, Thorpe writes a thought provoking blog post where he talks about the struggles he has had with depression throughout his life.
“I am someone who has struggled with mental health issues since I was a teen. From the outside, many would not see my pain nor be able to relate to the sometimes-daily struggle I was facing. It would have appeared as though I had grasped the world with both hands — a gifted athlete, student with a youthful naivety and innocence who chooses to believe in the best the world has to offer (I hold this view to this day, while accepting without delusion the myriad of struggles the world faces). My future seemed boundless. This is part of the deception of depression and also mental illness: what may appear at face value is a stark difference from the agony that lies within.”
The goal of Young Minds Matter is to create conversation around mental and emotional health with children so they feel loved, valued and understood. Thorpe writes his blog post in way that those who have struggled with mental health challenges can relate to, even if they can’t relate to the life that the Australian sporting legend has lived.
“Depression is irrational, what may seem to be a near-ideal life can indeed mask what is an ongoing hell. It’s difficult for others who have not lived through this experience to understand. I can see why, when I look at my life from the outside and recognize the plentiful gifts that were bestowed upon me to succeed and excel, I understand people’s apprehension to comprehend my struggle.”
Thorpe goes on to acknowledge the gifts he has, not only being an accomplished athlete, but simply having been born in a country where one does not have to struggle to simply exist. He not only gets to the heart of what depression feels like and the toll in can take on its victims, but he offers advice to those who suffer from what can be a deadly illness.
“I believe that each of us has the ability to shape and create our own reality. I know how hard it can be at times and I too struggle at times with this. We may be in the grips of our depression but we do have some control over how it impacts us. If you concede to your illness and accept its reality you fall into the trap of not only being depressed but also taking on the depressed mindset.”
“I am not trying to trivialize what anyone is going through. At times I have certainly become a hermit and tried to shut out the world. I’ve chosen at times to remove myself and give myself a few days to struggle on my own, but in choosing a few days you’ve enacted a level of control and acceptance, a level of respect for what you are up against.”
“We need to get back into the world, you have an opportunity to rebuild your resilience to your torment. You can regain a sense of self but also you feel as though you’re taking part in life again.”
Thorpe’s willingness to show this amount of vulnerability to help those who struggle with their own mental health is an extremely gracious and powerful act. You can read the blog in full here.