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

by melissadoss | January 13, 2016 2:00 am

Mental Illness: Breaking Down the Walls One Truth at a Time[1]

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[2] and bench press[3] 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.

“I Wanted to Live”

"I Wanted to Live"[4]

Through the years, I tried counseling, seeing a nutritionist, and seeing a doctor regularly — yet nothing worked. Nothing worked because I didn’t want it to.
So back to my story. My senior year of high school, I developed anorexia. I’m 5’7 and was a healthy 135 pounds and a size 4. Looking back now, I looked healthy and happy. I had light in my eyes. I loved life. I rapidly lost weight by starving myself and my weight hovered around 100 pounds at my lowest. My anorexia slowly turned into a combination of anorexia and bulimia. I remember thinking to myself, “I can stop whenever I want. I’m in control.” I was far from being in control. In fact, I was so out of control that once my eating disorder locked me in, I was trapped. A switch in my mind flipped and no matter what I did, I couldn’t stop it.

I remember planning my days around food. I didn’t want to eat out with family or friends. I didn’t want to travel. I didn’t want to take off my clothes. I didn’t want people to know I was sick. I hated my body. My eating disorder turned me into everything that I didn’t want to be. I lied to everyone. I lost the light in my eyes. I lost my joy. I lost my smile. I hated who I was. I remember lying in bed at night wondering if it would be my last. I feared my heart would stop beating. I feared my body would give out on me. I also feared that if it didn’t, I would spend my entire life trapped by this awful disease. That terrified me. I prayed to God every night asking for forgiveness for what I was doing to not only myself but to those around me who love me so much. I was destroying myself. I was destroying those who meant everything to me. Thinking of the pain I caused to others still makes my heart ache to this day. While it’s something I can never get back, I spend everyday trying to make up the pain I caused to my loved ones. Luckily, I have the best support system in the entire world, and their love for me is unconditional.

Through the years, I tried counseling, seeing a nutritionist, and seeing a doctor regularly — yet nothing worked. Nothing worked because I didn’t want it to. You have to want to get better in order to do so. You have to be open and honest with people. You have to ask for help. I did none of these. I lied to my doctors. I told them I was fine, when clearly I was dying inside. You have to want to get better. You have to want it more than you want anything else in this world. And I did. I wanted it. I wanted to be free. I wanted to be healthy and happy again. I wanted to live. I remember praying one day begging God to heal me. He gave me signs but made me take the first step. I vowed to go one day eating normally and keeping all of my food down. It was so hard. Then I vowed to go two. Then three. Then a week. Then a month. Baby steps.

Fitness — and especially CrossFit — saved my life. I’m sharing my story today in hopes that others will read it and no longer be ashamed of their mental illness.
I also started taking up fitness again, which helped clear my head and it gave me a reason to be healthy. I wanted to be strong. I started with running and lifting at a globo gym. I then tried doing a few mini triathlons with my now-husband, Daniel, and finally, I found CrossFit. My passion. I can honestly say from the day I vowed to get better, which was years and years ago, I haven’t had one single slip up. Of course I’ve had thoughts and urges, but I think back to who I was and what I went through and the pain that I caused to myself and my family. I never want to go back to that life. I never want to be that sick girl again. That’s enough motivation to stay healthy for me. I will NEVER go back to that life.

Fitness — and especially CrossFit — saved my life. I’m sharing my story today in hopes that others will read it and no longer be ashamed of their mental illness. In hopes that others will cry out for help. In hopes that others will find so many reasons to live this at times rocky but beautiful life. I couldn’t save Becky, but I can use my passions for writing and CrossFit to hopefully save a precious life with my honesty. “Your life isn’t determined by who you were in the past; your life is determined by the steps that you are willing to take today to make a better tomorrow.”

For Becky <3 #thebasicest

Melissa Doss owns her own law firm in Northern Kentucky and is also a competitive CrossFit Athlete. She is a 3-time individual Regional Qualifier/Competitor (Central East, 2013, 2014, 2015) and was a member of Team Conjugate Black[5] who took 2nd Place at the 2014 CrossFit Games. Follow her progress on Instagram at @meldoss00[6].

My Becks and I at the 2015 regionals [7]

My Becks and I at the 2015 Regionals

FullSizeRender (9)[8]

2009

[9]

2009

[10]

2015

[11]

2015

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2015

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Regionals 2015

References:
1. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=21466
Tags: Contributor Network[14], Melissa Doss[15], deadlift[2], bench press[3]
Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: http://www.tabatatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/article_590_SMT155.jpg
  2. deadlift: http://www.tabatatimes.com/deadlifting-will-get-laid-will-make-awesome-8-common-deadlift-mistakes/
  3. bench press: http://www.tabatatimes.com/getting-strong-with-the-bench-press/
  4. [Image]: http://www.tabatatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/article_590_spare.jpg
  5. Team Conjugate Black: http://games.crossfit.com/article/conjugate-strong
  6. @meldoss00: https://www.instagram.com/meldoss00/?hl=en
  7. [Image]: http://www.tabatatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/FullSizeRender-10.jpg
  8. [Image]: http://www.tabatatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/FullSizeRender-9.jpg
  9. [Image]: http://www.tabatatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/FullSizeRender-7.jpg
  10. [Image]: http://www.tabatatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/IMG_0858.jpg
  11. [Image]: http://www.tabatatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/IMG_1564.jpg
  12. [Image]: http://www.tabatatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/IMG_1565.jpg
  13. [Image]: http://www.tabatatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/IMG_1570.jpg
  14. Contributor Network: http://www.tabatatimes.com/category/all_posts/columns/contributor-network/
  15. Melissa Doss: http://www.tabatatimes.com/tag/melissa-doss/

Source URL: http://www.tabatatimes.com/mental-illness-breaking-walls-one-truth-time/