When Dreams Shatter: Confronting Depression

I had been training as a gymnast for as long as I could remember, and each day I loved it more and more. The feeling of executing perfect moves on the mats was exhilarating, especially when I saw my coaches’ faces light up with pride at my achievements. Every time I won a competition, they would say to me, “How can someone look so sweet and fierce on the mat?” They didn’t know I  was having issues with depression.

I Lived And Breathed For Competition

The competitions were always fun but also nerve-wracking. Every time before going onstage to compete, butterflies fluttered in my stomach, and my heart raced faster than usual. But no matter how scared or anxious I felt beforehand, when the music started playing, and it was time to show off all of my hard work – nothing else mattered anymore except giving an unforgettable performance.

I Dress To Kill…On The Mat

My favorite part about being a gymnast was not only competing but also dressing up for it. From applying makeup that matched perfectly with my leotard’s colors to picking out accessories like hairpins or bows – getting ready for meets was almost like preparing for a fashion show! It made me feel glamorous yet powerful, which motivated me even further during performances.

A young girl doing amazing gymnastics.
Source: pixabay.com

Gymnastics has become such an integral part of who I am today: from making new friends to learning valuable life lessons along the way – being able to do something that brings me joy is truly a blessing!

A Glitch In My Plans

Despite the glitz and glam that came with gymnastics, it was no different from other sports in training difficulty. Every morning, I had to stretch all my limbs to stay as flexible as possible, even when there was no competition. If I had to compete, I would have to wake up earlier than everybody, head to the gym for an hour, go to school, do my homework, and train for two to four hours after that. I managed to juggle my activities easily when I was still in elementary school, although things became challenging as the years passed by.

It came to the point where I had to be homeschooled for half a year as I started competing out of state in middle school. What little I got to rest, I had to spend half of it studying. More than once, I cried to my parents out of exhaustion and wanted to quit school to focus on gymnastics, but they said that I needed a fallback plan. “Sports is not a lifetime job. While it’s great to compete as much as you can now, there will come a time when you’ll need to retire,” Dad said.

When I heard that, I laughed. Though I knew that my father only spoke the truth, I was only 16 years old then – I thought I still had a decade to become a legendary gymnast. That’s what I had been aiming for all this time; that’s why I had been pushing my body to the limit whenever I trained and competed.

Then Life Threw A Curved Ball At Me

Unfortunately, during an executive checkup, the doctor saw a slight curvature in my spine. It was not too prominent at the time, but the doctor advised me to avoid training too much. I did not speak back then, though I was screaming in my head. How could I tell my coaches to lessen my activities when we were on a roll at the time? I had many competitions lined up, and everyone counted on me to bring home medals and trophies.

It Was All Downhill From There

As stubborn as I was, I did not listen to the doctor. After several months, I woke up with a painful back, and my parents took me to the nearest hospital emergency room. Eventually, I also felt that something was wrong whenever I stood up straight, so I asked my parents to take me to the doctor again. That’s when the doctor told me that I had scoliosis. It was what was causing the chronic pain in my back. While the news shook me, I was not prepared for my parents’ mutual decision to make me retire at 16 years old.

A gymnast stretching to warm-up and get ready for the training.
Source: pixabay.com

When The Lights Went Out

Of course, I could not disagree with Mom and Dad. They were right – my health was more important than anything. Despite that, I could not help but feel sad about it. My entire career had already been mapped out years ago. I was always a strong competitor, so my coaches believed that I could hold world records in no time. But then, scoliosis came into the picture and derailed everything.

I felt lost and unmotivated to do anything for a while after that. My parents did not know about it until much later, but I often came home past 8 p.m. and told them that I already ate with my friends. In reality, I merely stayed at the park and stared into nothing until the sky went dark. I had always been slim, so they did not notice that I had lost a little weight from my appetite loss. Some days, I would lie to my parents about feeling ill to avoid going to school.

I did not think much about my emotional and physical symptoms until I read an article about clinical depression. I ticked off most – if not all – the symptoms, making me believe that I had a mental disorder.

What Happened Next

The day I found out about my scoliosis was the most devastating of my life. It felt like all of my dreams were crumbling around me, and I had no idea what to do next. One thing was for certain – going to the gym would never be the same again.

For years I had been pushing myself harder than anyone else at our local gymnastics club, always striving for excellence in each routine that I performed. But now, this condition threatened to put an end to all of that progress. How could I ever compete on a global stage if something as simple as standing upright became impossible?

Although it was difficult at first, eventually, I accepted that things weren’t going to be quite the same anymore; but instead of letting it stop me from achieving greatness, it only pushed me even further towards success. With every step forward came a newfound appreciation for how far I’d come in such a short amount of time – something which helped keep me motivated when times got tough or when fear began creeping into my thoughts.

After meeting with a doctor about some back pain that had been bothering me for months, she informed us that I had scoliosis – a condition where my spine curved abnormally from side to side instead of remaining straight up and down – which meant there were risks associated with continuing to compete at such high levels given the extreme physical demands placed on gymnasts’ bodies during competition.

My mom and dad decided it would be best if we retired from competitive gymnastics altogether; although this news broke my heart into pieces, ultimately, they were right: It just wasn’t safe anymore for me to continue competing professionally, given how severe my scoliosis was becoming. So while others around me continued chasing their dreams of Olympic glory, all of mine were put on hold indefinitely as we came up with alternative plans moving forward; although nothing could replace what was lost due to this diagnosis or change what happened next in life’s journey, eventually over time things began looking up once more as we adapted our goals accordingly towards something attainable given our new circumstances.

Is It Viable To Diagnose Yourself With Depression?

It is impossible to diagnose yourself with depression, considering you are not trained to do so. This is true even if you show some depressive symptoms. The best thing you can do is download a screening self-test and check which depression symptoms you possibly have. But then again, that is nothing compared to booking an appointment with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional and letting the expert assess your condition. Only a qualified healthcare professional can accurately diagnose depression.

What Are The Chances Of Getting Diagnosed With The Mental Health Condition?

In reality, everyone can experience depression, just as anyone can have a mood disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that an estimated 280 million individuals worldwide suffer from depression. This mental illness does not even choose what age it manifests, considering kids diagnosed with depression. However, your chances of getting depressed increase if:

  • You have a direct relative with depression.
  • You have a pre-existing mental disorder that makes you feel sad and lonely all the time.
  • You have dealt with some form of abuse, and nothing seems to help you get over it.
  • You have acquired a new physical illness, but you cannot accept it.

What Is The Highest Cause Of Depression?

Genetics is perhaps the highest cause of the mental health condition. Studies reveal that it covers 40% of the problem – a percentage that becomes more probable if depression has been detected in your parents, siblings, and other direct relatives. The remaining 60% can then be divided into abuse, stress, peer pressure, low self-esteem, and various environmental factors.

How Does The Mental Illness Affect Synapses?

Depression affects neural synapses by technically cutting them off and giving them no chance to regrow. The longer you don’t treat depression, the more synapses will most likely get destroyed. The only way to reverse this problem is by taking antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These would tremendously help calm your nerves and prevent you from having severe or manic depression with psychosis symptoms.

Is School The Cause Of Depression?

Yes, school can trigger depression for some people – particularly students. This issue is not prevalent among bullied individuals alone. In reality, even high-achieving students tend to get depressed because of academic pressure. They have severe depression or major depressive disorder as their neural connections start to die and cause short-term memory and forgetfulness.

Signs and symptoms of mental health problems varies from one person to another.
Source: pixabay.com

How Do I Know If I’m Bipolar?

Bipolar disorder is one of the trickiest mood disorders to diagnose, considering you may keep on experiencing symptoms of depression and mania. Still, if you are looking for the early signs of bipolar disorder, here they are:

  • You do not merely feel down. Instead, you cannot sleep, or you oversleep, lose interest in everything you used to enjoy, feel sluggish, and are unable to concentrate.
  • Some days, you feel like you will never run out of energy. You want to do everything at once or be everywhere at once. Even if you experience failure, you shake it off and move on to the next adventure.
  • Dealing with manic symptoms may make you happy at first, but you will eventually feel out of control. While you may know that you should not do something, you still do it. Because of these complexities, treating depression can definitely be difficult.

Is It Okay To Self-Diagnose Anxiety?

No, it is not okay to self-diagnose anxiety. Self-tests exist so that individuals can assess their likelihood of having a specific mental disorder with mild, moderate, or severe symptoms. However, considering you are neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist, you can’t determine your condition or how severe it may be.

Can You Self-Diagnose A Mental Illness?

Technically, there are many screening self-tests that you can consult if you want to guarantee that you have a mental illness before contacting a psychiatrist or psychologist. These typically come in the form of questionnaires or checklists, and the more items you tick off, the higher your chances of having a psychological condition.

Despite self-tests, many mental health professionals discourage people from trying them, considering it can trivialize the disorder or cause depression relapse. Others tend to avoid getting an official diagnosis as they believe they already know what’s happening to them.

Who Is At The Most Significant Risk For This Mental Condition?

A young female adult has the highest chance of getting what’s called major depressive disorder than anyone. In truth, studies reveal that females are twice more likely than males to get depressed. Though more research must be conducted regarding the matter, it may have something to do with the fact that men can compartmentalize their thoughts while women cannot.

Which Age Group Has The Highest Rate Of This Mental Health Condition?

The young adult group has the highest depression rate. This ranges from 18 to 25 years old, and some of these youngsters suffer from the worst types of depression, including psychotic depression.

Assuming you wonder why young adults are more prone to getting depressed than others, there are many possible reasons for that, such as:

  • Young adults have a twisted standard of beauty in their minds, no thanks to the physical enhancements that they may have seen on TV personalities.
  • Young adults are dealing with more stress than they admit. Stress is one of the commonly known trigger factors for various mental disorders, including depression.
  • Young adults have experienced irreversible life changes. For instance, their parents may have divorced, failed to enter their dream college, etc.
coping with mental health problems.
Source: pixabay.com

What Is The Primary Cause Of This Mental Health Issue?

There is no primary cause of depression because that will imply that one cause is more prevalent than the other. In reality, depression results from various causes acting together, such as genetics or family history, stressful events, pre-existing psychological disorders, etc. Despite that, studies suggest that if you have a family member with depression, there is a high likelihood that you or another close relative will get diagnosed with it too.

General Facts About The Mental Health Condition

Which Country Has The Highest Depression Rate?

China has been reported to have the highest depression rate globally, considering more than 100 million individuals were affected by mental disorders in 2016. However, the problem is that not all of them have received a diagnosis, so their depression is left untreated. That’s one reason China has seen an increase in the number of suicide cases in the country.

Does The Mental Health Issue Count As A Disability?

Yes, depression counts as a disability. The more severe it gets, the more it prevents you from living naturally and doing your daily tasks. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not recognize a mild form of depression. Depression symptoms can range from mild to severe, and the ADA’s recognition largely depends on the severity and impact of these symptoms on daily life.

What Part Of The Brain Causes This Mental Health Problem?

The changes in the brain’s three vital parts – the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus – cause depression. After all, most types of depression begin with a decrease in a person’s serotonin levels. When that happens, the hippocampus fills the void with cortisol, the stress hormone. Instead of helping, though, it makes matters worse; hence, it makes depression worse.

As if that is not enough, the oxygen supply in the brain decreases, causing inflammation. The longer there is no oxygen in the brain, the more neural connections will die. Because of that, people develop short-term memory loss and mood swings, which are also common symptoms of depression.

What Are Some Pertinent Details You Need To Know About Depression?

As a mental health disorder, depression comes with a plethora of symptoms, from the feeling of intense sadness, low energy, loss of appetite, changes in sleeping patterns, and difficulty concentrating to thoughts of emptiness, worthlessness, and even guilt. The combinations of these emotions vary from person to person, but one thing is common; depression significantly impacts a person’s life, relationships, and overall well-being.

Like most mental health issues, depression is caused by a combination of various factors, ranging from genetic, environmental, and psychological factors, etc. Interestingly, it affects people with depression of all ages, races, social statuses, and backgrounds.

Treatment for depression also varies from one person to another. Usually, it involves a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. But for the most part, the treatment plan is personalized for the exact needs and preferences of the individual. It is crucial to seek professional help for proper diagnosis and treatment plans for this mental health condition.

How Is A Person Evaluated For This Mental Health Issue?

Only qualified healthcare professionals can properly diagnose a person for depression. Primary care providers, psychologists, and psychiatrists can diagnose this mental health condition. They often employ combinations of diagnostic methods for thorough assessments, which include a detailed discussion of the person’s symptoms of depression, medical history, and family background in mental health conditions.

Often, clinicians use standardized questionnaires or scales such as the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) to properly assess the severity of the depression symptoms. In some cases, they will have to perform physical examinations and laboratory tests (blood tests) to help rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be contributing to the symptoms.

The evaluation process for the condition involves duration, intensity, and impact of symptoms on one’s life. Thus, it is crucial for people to experience depression to open up and be completely honest in answering these questions during the assessment to accurately diagnose their case and get an appropriate treatment plan.

What Are The Most Common Triggers For Depression?

Causes and triggers for depression differ from one person to another. Some of the most common triggers are significant life events such as financial difficulties, job loss, relationship problems, major life transitions, and the loss of interest in a loved one. Moreover, trauma, abuse, and chronic stress can also contribute to the development of depression, which may sometimes manifest as bipolar disorder or another depressive disorder.

For many, biological factors such as hormonal imbalances and chemical imbalances in the brain can trigger a variety of mental health issues. Certain medical conditions can also contribute to an increased risk of developing affective disorder and other types of mental health issues, including clinical depression.

Is Depression Really Just In Your Head?

No, absolutely not. Depression is not “just in your head”, it’s not something that you can just turn off and not think about. As with other mental health disorders, it is beyond just one’s thoughts and emotions. Rather, it is a complex anomaly in the interactions between biological, psychological, and social factors. Moreover, neurochemical imbalances in the brain, hormonal changes, alterations in the brain structure, and genetic predisposition can all contribute to the increased risk of mental health issues.

What Are Simple Ways To Comfort Someone Who Is Probably Depressed?

When you suspect someone is possibly having depression, it is important to offer support, understanding, and, more importantly, empathy. This means giving them a safe space for them to express their emotions, validate their feelings and listen without judgment.

The goal is to let them know and feel that you are there for them and that someone cares for them. Help them through depression and make them feel supported. Encourage them to engage in activities that they enjoy or find comforting and relaxing, such as walking, watching movies, or starting a fun hobby. Offer a helping hand and do tasks for them. More importantly, encourage them to seek professional help. Accompany them to their appointments if they are uncomfortable.


Final Thoughts

I came clean to my parents about my possible mental health condition and told them everything I had been doing in the past months. It was the first time I saw them cry out of helplessness, but I assured them that I wanted to be okay. After my revelation, they helped me contact a psychologist and went on to do psychotherapy, which is a form of interpersonal therapy. Electroconvulsive therapy was also recommended for me, but I didn’t get the chance to try it.

I was once in a deep and dark place. I had been struggling with depression (and possibly other mental health problems) for what felt like an eternity, and it seemed like there was no end in sight. But then something changed within me – I don’t know if it was some kind of internal shift or the start of healing, but whatever it was, it gave me hope that things could be different.

With newfound optimism, I set out to make my dreams come true. My primary focus became getting into college, so I worked hard on my applications and essays until finally submitting them all with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

The waiting period between submissions and acceptance letters stretched on longer than anticipated; at times, it felt like the darkness from before might consume me again… but eventually, the letter arrived! It said, “Congratulations! You have been accepted…” And just like that, everything changed forever.

My life has never been better since then – sure, depression may still try to creep back in every now and again, but seeing how far I have come fills me with the strength to keep going forward no matter what challenges lie ahead. Nowhere else can you find such joy as when you get accepted into your dream school, not even close!

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