Mental Illness: Breaking Down the Walls One Truth at a Time

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by MELISSA DOSS

Mental Illness: Breaking Down the Walls One Truth at a Time

You might wonder why there is an article about mental illness on a CrossFt blog. The truth is that about 1 in 5 of Americans ages 18 and up suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in a given year.1 While mental illness isn’t a sexy topic, it is a topic too close to my heart to not write about. I was that 1 in 5. So today, I’m putting myself out there and sharing my story in hopes that it will help save someone’s life.

I wasted years of my life being too sick to fully enjoy it… so many people in this world…are currently suffering from a mental illness and feel trapped and ashamed because of it.
I was always that girl that could eat whatever I wanted. I was naturally thin. Naturally fit. In high school I was a competitive cheerleader and gradually began to obsess about my weight and about my size. The people around me — including my family, friends and boyfriend (now husband!) — constantly told me how beautiful I was and how I didn’t need to change a thing about myself, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t hear anything but my own thoughts. Once my eating disorder got a hold of me, I wasn’t sure I could ever get out. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I openly admitted to having an eating disorder in my past. Yes, everyone who knew me knew it, but I was too ashamed and embarrassed to talk about it. Even more than the shame were the painful memories associated with the disease that I just thought I could block out and they would go away. Unfortunately, that’s not how the mind works. I wasted years of my life being too sick to fully enjoy it, and I know there are so many people in this world who are currently suffering from a mental illness and feel trapped and ashamed because of it. That breaks my heart.

A Great Loss

A little over four months ago, I lost one of my best friends to suicide. She was one of the strongest women that I’ve ever known and a fellow CrossFit lover. She could deadlift and bench press a house, had a great job, was finishing her degree, and was breathtakingly beautiful. From the outside, it looked like she had it all. Unbeknownst to everyone close to her, Becky was suffering from depression and PTSD and had been for over 12 years. She was really the first person with whom I ever discussed my past eating disorder in depth, and while she shared some very personal information with me regarding her past, never once did she mention how much she was struggling or her PTSD. If she did, I would have tried everything to help her, tried to save her. I still think about this every day. I look for clues but will never have the answers.

Since her death, the amount of people who have opened up to me about their mental health has been astounding. Terrifying yet astounding. Even with my past, until Becky, I was so naïve to the issue of mental illness. I was still ashamed and embarrassed about opening up. About exposing my (many!) imperfections. I was afraid that people would judge me. What I’ve realized is that I don’t care if people judge me. If my realness can help save the life of another, it is so worth it. Besides, if people judge me (or anyone) because of their past or present, they aren’t worth your or my time anyway.

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