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Cycling through Psychosis - Developing Mental Health through Physical Strength

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Posted by Melissa K of MRKy Waters under Wellbeing on 19 October 2013 at 11:00 PM

Melissa profile pictureI love to ride my bike.  I have learned to love running.  If there is a body of water near by, I will likely be swimming in it. But I’m on a rollercoaster now… 

I have been diagnosed with psychosis. 

Psychosis is one of the scariest words in the English language and it brings out images of violent people from Hollywood movies or drug-addled people rocking and mumbling to themselves in dark alleyways so let me explain:  

My particular level of psychosis is a beginner “warning” level in which a voice in my head insults me and, on occasion, issues orders. While I am a very intelligent person, this has no baring on my affliction. It is the hope that with some counseling and medication, this voice might disappear all together. Untreated, it could grow into something that haunts me in my sleep with very vivid nightmares that Hollywood should leave alone.  No one should feel like that and it should not be a form of entertainment.  

When people heard I had a mental illness, a lot of people stopped calling.  Invitations stopped.  I though I had been having interesting discussions with people… and yet, they disappeared. Suddenly, I wasn’t worthy of an invitation.  I have a theory for this - people put themselves into situations they hear about (even if only subconsciously).  

If they come across someone who is deaf, they try to figure out what it would be like to never hear music or traffic noise.  Someone in a wheelchair always makes people wonder about abilities in sports… and in the bedroom.  But someone with a mental affliction can’t be understood because it is in the mind, itself, that is misfiring.  If it’s senility, it can be somewhat brushed off because it comes with age.  But to see a young, healthy person like myself proclaim that I am contending with psychosis, they have no place to even start understanding it… except for Hollywood.

So let me tell you a bit about me.  I was born premature and there was a placental abruption that could be responsible for my current state as foetal malnutrition can create the perfect environment for issues in mental development.  Not all issues can be prevented by loving parents.  

I grew up thinking I was different or “quirky” because I made few friends and often had very different ideas then the people around me.  In some areas of life, I was allowed the feeling of being “gifted” like in writing and reading.  In others, I was placed in remedial levels - like math.  Social dynamics have always confused me and things didn’t seem to get better as I got older.  I have taken sporadic mental ability tests throughout my grade school and then university education to see what was going on.  Finally, I got into some trouble with dark thoughts and the development of this voice so I started to seek help.  After being diagnosed with lots of incorrect labels… schizophrenic, depressed, allusions to being crazy… I ended up with my diagnosis of psychosis and I’m now an out-patient being treated by the Early Psychosis program in Calgary.  

This has been a long time coming and I think a lot of the problem in this process is the stigma behind mental illness.  Mental illness has such a strong stigma around it because it’s something no one wants to imagine that it can happen to them.  You can talk about losing a limb, which is terrible enough… but losing your mind?  That’s a bridge too far for most people to even contemplate.

I’m on the road to becoming more fit than I’ve ever been.  Physical fitness has always been important to me - by varying degrees - but as I get older and I’m focussed on things like my career and starting a family, my state of health is very important to me.  I enjoy solitary sports like swimming and running the most, but I ride my bike with my best friend and I often run with my mother.  We’ll chat about random topics or about what is happening in each other’s lives.  I read a lot so I often reflect on my reading when working out.  I, also, volunteer or run in community foot races and am slowly training to run in a marathon.

City2Surf

It’s amazing how much working out can benefit my mental state… and how retched I can feel if I don’t engage in enough physical activity.  The way I see it, the pharmaceuticals that are part of my treatment make me tired and zombie-like, but a nice run wakes me up better than a cup of coffee.  If I cheat on my “no sugar, triple vegetables” diet, I don’t feel like running or anything… and a main part of the psychosis diagnosis is that my judgement on these types of decisions cannot be trusted.  When you hear things that don’t exist, it’s best to “buy-in” to whatever program has been decided on.

My family and best friend have supported me like everyone needs to be supported.  You now know that you have met someone with a mental illness.  And even if we haven’t met before, you still have.  You know someone who is struggling… either with mental illness, depression, a learning disability… and you might not know because they haven’t told you.  The stigma is so strong that many people won’t reveal these truths about themselves.

Melissa with race medal

I encourage everyone to take a look around at the people you talk to everyday.  There is a chance, a significant chance, that someone you know is dealing with a personal health issue like a mental affliction.  If anyone confides in you, just listen because chances are, they just want to be heard by someone they respect.  I also encourage people to get out and be active in their community.  The very fact that you’re reading this on a social networking page means, to me, that you’re seeking some understanding.  In my hope of breaking the stigma, I have created a blog called www.MRKyWaters.blogspot.ca that speaks to my experience in dealing with mental illness.

The stigma lives and breaths on ignorance and solitude so I hope that everyone who reads this will take a moment and reach out to someone who is normally outside of their “radar” - someone who is on the periphery of their lives.  Chances are, you’ll have an interesting conversation.  But who knows, maybe you’ll really help someone who is struggling, sight unseen.

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