Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Athletes Come Out About Mental Illness

In recent days, two athletes have been news stories. Professional women's basketball player, Chamique Holdsclaw, and Major League Baseball player, Zack Greinke, have both publicly revealed their battles with mental illness. Both athletes were forced to walk away from their sports, and their livelihoods, secondary to depression. Greinke also suffers from social anxiety disorder. In separate Sports Illustrated articles, each player describes how the games they once loved became overwhelming burdens under the strain of mental illness.

Greinke, SI cover boy and arguably one of baseball's top pitchers this year, missed almost the entire 2008 season while he sought treatment for debilitating depression and social anxiety disorder. His illness took him from promising rookie in 2004, to 17 game loser in 2005, to out of baseball in 2008. He grew to despise baseball and constantly entertained ideas of staying away for good. In a recent NPR report, Greinke revealed he had contemplated mowing lawns for a living rather than continuing to pitch. After receiving treatment, including anti-depressant medication, Greinke is now back and pitching stronger than just about everyone in the league. More importantly, he reports he's once again found joy in the game.

From a May 18, 2009 article on
"Dr. Don Malone of the Cleveland Clinic has studied depression and other health-related issues in sports. He said high-level athletes can be especially vulnerable to mental illness."

"Athletes are used to working through things," Malone said. "If you have an injury, you rehab it and get over it. When you have a problem, you're expected to just buck up and get through it. Typically, coaches, media and other people are not the most understanding people in the world. They'll say to an athlete, 'You've got everything. What do you have to be depressed about?' But depression is an illness. It's not only for people without money. It happens to everybody, in any circumstances. It needs to be treated the same way in an athlete as any individual."

Holdsclaw, a four-time All American at Tennessee, winner of three NCAA National Championships and an Olympic gold medal, is also rediscovering joy in her game. Holdsclaw's severe depression led her to walk away from professional basketball not once but twice. She missed half of the 2004 season. In response to criticism regarding her missed time, at the end of that season Holdsclaw revealed she was clinically depressed. After treatment, she played two more seasons before suddenly retiring two years ago. With continued treatment, and after moving and surrounding herself with supportive people, Holdsclaw is now set to return to the pro ranks. Her new coach told SI, "I think this is the first time in her life that she's really, really, really been happy."

I'm glad to see athletes, male and female, coming out about their battles with mental illness. The more we share our stories, the more we can collectively reduce the stigma associated with these devastating illnesses. I applaud Greinke and Holdsclaw for their openness.


andrew said...

Hello again Etta,

I agree completely. If only we could rid society of the stigma attached to mental illness. I have been away for a while, in a very dark place. Hopefully I'm back now.
All my best wishes

etta said...

Welcome back, andrew--
I'm glad the darkness has surrendered you.

Anonymous said...

It is not true that the old men and women are more susceptible to depression than their younger counterparts and it must be mentioned that an individual is said to suffer from depression when he exhibits symptoms, namely, hopelessness, chronic tiredness, appetite loss, loneliness, sadness et al for one week or more. Therefore, it is important for you to get hold of right information on depression related details before starting to treat your depression.

etta said...

Dr. rudford: I appreciate your comment, but I did not state nor imply in this post that old men and women are more susceptible to depression than young people.
I agree it is important for people to have the right information prior to treating their depression. That is why I've written multiple posts delineating the symptoms of depression, however that was not the intent of this post.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you find other posts here more to your liking.