Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Clara Hughes - Let's Talk

I remember hearing in 2010 when Clara Hughes became one of the faces of  Bell's ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign to help raise awareness and support for those suffering from mental illness.  She signed a five year commitment to share her story of struggling with depression in hopes of erasing the stigma of shame metal illness can generate.

On the heels of Olympic success, her broad smile had been on every Canadian television and it was the perfect moment to share her message ---people would be listening. I was listening!  And then I promptly forgot about her...because I thought it had nothing to do with me. 

Just recently, Hughes spoke to more than 1,100 spectators at the London Convention Centre for the seventh annual Breakfast of Champions, a fundraiser presented jointly by St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation and the Canadian Mental Health Association London-Middlesex. She described her early experiences with drinking, drugs and ditching school.  Cycling was the one thing that she finally latched on to that gave her the drive and focus to turn her life around.  However, a drive like that--such intense focus on a huge Olympic win--caused her to run herself ragged.

“I had no balance. I couldn’t take a day off because I thought I was lazy if I did . . . So I was pushed into the ground.” 

“I just didn’t want to show weakness,” she said. “I had to be strong, I had to be good, I had to win. So talking about that (depression) and asking for help, or even thinking that I couldn’t fix myself . . . was out of the question.

“That’s the mind-set I was in. It was completely delusional and irrational. But that’s part of what made me so good, so young, and possibly allowed me to do everything I did.”

My new unofficial mentor Brene Brown hits it on the head with this statement:

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

In 2014, Clara starts her cycling trip across Canada to get people talking.  I took a look at the route and seems she will be in Toronto at some point.  I would like to go and see her and let her know I think that what she is doing is incredibly important.  I still hide under a pseudonym when I write this because I just don't know what the people I work with would think.  The thought of someone judging me harshly makes me angry--though I am sure I have done the same to others--which is lesson enough in itself for today perhaps. 

You can't tell that the person walking by has cancer, dying child, depression - so maybe be a little more patient, a little more kind.  Forgive the person who cuts you off while driving, the cranky check out clerk, the absent minded waitress---you just don't know what is going on with them or in their life. 

A little kindness can go a long way....and so can a bike ride across Canada! 

Thank you Clara Hughes!

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