In Honor of May, which is also Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to share a letter from our CRO, Felicia.
For most of my life, I have cared deeply about what people think about me. I’ve always been a straight-A, rule follower, overachiever. I would only reveal certain parts of myself to people around me. After all, I was busy trying to maintain this image of a “perfect” person with a “perfect” life.
In my early twenties, I was miserable. Although I had graduated from Stanford University and had a great job, I felt this unshakeable heaviness and hopelessness. There were days that I found it hard to get out of bed. I was abusing my body by either starving myself or binge eating and then exercising for hours on end. I felt hopeless and worst of all, I felt like I could never tell anyone. This silence only further wedged the gap between myself and the people closest to me. I was terrified of anyone finding out that I was anything less than the smiling, bubbly extroverted personality that I chose to share.
I decided to make an appointment to see a therapist. Therapy was not new to me. I’m happy to share that story for another time. After learning about my family history (depression, trauma, loss) and talking to me over the course of many weeks, the therapist diagnosed me with depression and prescribed me anti-depressants.
I was relieved, guilty and devastated at the same time. Relieved because there was finally a name to how I felt – which meant there was also a solution. Yet I felt guilty – my life was wonderful on paper, why couldn’t I just appreciate it? What kind of person would feel anything but gratitude – was I just selfish? Finally, I was devastated because I cared about what other people might think if they found out. Would depression and medication now become my identity?
I was hellbent on protecting my secret.
A few years after my diagnosis, I met my husband. Outside of my family and my roommate, he was the first person I told. I was terrified and certain he was going to run the opposite direction. Obviously, he didn’t because all these years later he is still by my side. Although I told him and a few friends here and there, I largely kept my depression to myself. In 2019, I finally outed myself on social media by posting a photo of my Sertaline aka Zoloft prescription. I no longer wanted to feel shame and I wanted people who chose to follow me to know that I suffer from depression. I too have bad days, insecurities, and vulnerabilities. I wanted to do my small part in helping to knockout the stigma around mental illness.
Since the inception of BoxUnion, we’ve always leaned into the mental benefits of boxing. I’ve shared that the first time I put on a pair of gloves was at the age of 16 shortly after my father died suddenly of a heart attack. Hitting a bag was therapeutic and cathartic beyond words. I felt as though my inner fighter had been unlocked. Those of you who take classes at BoxUnion or TITLE Boxing Club know this feeling and I’m sure it is one of the main reasons why you come back and why our clubs and classes are so popular. I truly believe there is no better exercise for one’s body and mind.
I, like many others, believe there needs to be more of an open dialogue around mental illness. I realize in order for that to happen, people like me need to step outside of our comfort zone and share their story. I’m so thankful to those of you who have opened up and shared your story too. I’m grateful for each of you, including our employees and coaches, who bring your whole self into our clubs.
I’m honored to work with colleagues who bravely talk about their own struggles with anxiety, PTSD, and depression. I’m thankful for the work Bring Change to Mind is doing to fight the stigma around mental illness through their PSAs and Clubs on high school and college campuses.
On a final note, I have to acknowledge that the past 14+ months have been traumatic for all of us. We are dealing with a mental health pandemic of epic proportions. I’ve learned that while my depression is not something that defines who I am, it is also equally difficult to try and ignore it. In the last few weeks, as we start to open up in Los Angeles, I notice that even an extrovert like me is finding it exhausting to be in the company of others when I have spent the last 12+ months with just my son and husband. It’s the same, but opposite, adjustment we had to make when the lockdown was first announced.
I’ll be the first to say that I don’t have all the answers, but I find comfort in sharing these observations and feelings with my boxing family. As we go into May, which is also Mental Health Awareness Month, I feel hopeful that we are getting closer to a world where there is no stigma around mental illness.