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Outrunning the stigma

It took a long time before I realized what I was fighting for. I knew I was depressed and had an obesity problem, but I didn’t realize I had a mental illness and was fighting to end the stigma. Fortunately, I was curing my illness though I didn’t truly understand it. The beauty with my weight loss, along with all my life, was that I learned one irreplaceable truth about mental health. If you can look at all the horrible moments in your life, and be thankful for them, you will know true happiness.

I didn’t think it was okay for me to be sad and overweight. I was surrounded by this image in the athletic world that I had to be happy and skinny to succeed in my dreams.

I always think about what I would say to that overweight kid crying his eyes out and contemplating his life. You can’t just not think about these things. I’ve dealt with suicide and thought about what I would tell them to stop them, just as I thought about what I could tell myself when I contemplated it. “It’s going to be okay. You’re going to university someday, you will travel the world reffing the sport you love, you will meet people who accept you and you’ll never feel that low again.”

I would have been right. If I told myself I’d lose 114 pounds, run a marathon, and hug people I cared about knowing I made a difference in their life, I wouldn’t have believed it. Just like I wouldn’t have believed the best quote I ever heard to end the stigma, and maybe the most powerful statement in the human language — you’re not alone. Two of five people have a mental illness, but everyone has mental health.

I can admit that at times, I ran solely to avoid suicide. At times I ran so much that I forgot I was depressed. The best part about overcoming depression is the fact that others will be ignited. By far my favourite moments of my story have been people’s reactions. I love it because it proves I wasn’t alone. All those times I thought I was on my own there was someone else who felt just as lonely. Things may have been different had I realized long ago that it was okay to be sad and bigger. But I can’t regret the accomplishments I worked for. I was born to be something greater than part of a stigma, and so were you.

It was years before I realized I was winning a battle I had blindly fought my entire life. Sometimes we overcome demons we didn’t know were haunting us. But that’s what makes it incredible that you’re going to win. Keep in mind, I was losing this battle ferociously at one point. But I was just too close to the puzzle to see the picture that was forming.

“Every good thing that has happened in your life happened because something changed” – Andy Andrews


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