Living, training, working, breathing, eating...with depression

One of Transitions' finest moments "The mental health thread" has shown us that we are a caring sharing bunch. It has giving those who want to, a place to share their thoughts, and to show them they may not be alone and that there are plenty of people who care and will listen. Transitions' "Hyphen" is taking things a step further. Here is her story.

I look at that and I go wow….but that’s what you do when you have it and you’re not alone. Thousands of people do this and more.

I’m Hyphen, Bron to my family and friends, mum to my two mini monsters and Bronwyn when I’m in being naughty and I’m in trouble. I have a disease. It’s called Depression. Whilst it’s mostly only mild, and tainted with a bit of anxiety it’s still Depression. I don’t call it a mental illness. It’s a dis-ease, partially because it’s a pain in the bum to be ill at ease with yourself, and partially because I don’t want it!

I wont go into the full story of my life because it not all that interesting, but a few years ago an event changed my life, and something that had lurked in the background, unchecked, for most of my life reared its ugly head with a vengeance. As I said I’m not going into the detail, because this isn’t a sob story.

I was put on anti-depressants, which made me so ill, that I felt disgustingly worse than I already was. I took myself off them quick smart and started to use exercise as my release.

Before I get into the benefits of exercise, let me try and describe to you what depression fells like for those who don’t know and don’t understand. This is only my experience. It’s the darkness that scares you. I felt this blackness of hopelessness that enveloped my every moment. It was like this great big pair of arms holding me down when I wanted to move and trying to drag me under and smoother me. Now fortunately for me it scared me, and motivated me to find an answer for myself.

So how did I deal with it? My bike. My little blue Giant OCR 2 “Oscar” saved me.

(oh and probably my psychologist). To escape my world of yuck I would take Oscar out for ride. The fresh air, the exercise, were just what my frazzled soul needed. It became a love affair. After just a few months of riding by myself, my best friend, who was a mad triathlete suggested that I might like Triathlon. And I thought I was the one with the mental problem! Intrigued by the notion of the challenge, I went along to my local Tri club and fell instantly in love. This has actually probably got more to do with the people than the sport itself but it all helps. I was welcomed with open arms and this whole new world of training and exercise and endorphins like I’d never know open up.

Triathlon and training opened a world to me I never knew existed. I have travelled around Australia with my bike, and have represented Australia twice at Worlds. And yes there are those that say World Age Groups isn’t representing Australia, but to a broken body who has fought a couple of Black Dogs it’s a huge achievement and I’m so proud that I could do it. Even if that last time I crashed into a fence and came practically last. I still finished.

Training became my therapy. To escape the dramas of life, I’d jump on the wind trainer or treadmill, go for a run or ride. I would hum. I loved it. I loved the buzz.
Unfortunately for me as this was all going on, to control my crazy world I unintentionally developed an eating disorder. Just my unconscious way of controlling the world in an uncontrollable situation.

This lifestyle of training and then later racing became the greatest escape and release I’d known. I could just lose myself in exercise. I took it just a little too far. Racing too many events in a short period of time and not eating were not all that beneficial to my health. I was swimming one day, and I could no longer kick or raise my arms, and I started to sink in the pool. It was hear I had my Ah ha moment. I stood in the middle of the lane, broken, and it was there and then that I realized that I had a problem. I got out of the pool and rang my best friend and said. “I’ve got a problem, I think I’ve got an eating disorder, I’m calling a nutritionist” and I did. The best move I could have made. I’m 158 cm and weighed at this time 48 kilograms. My body couldn’t fuel what I was wanting it to do, although it would happily do it...to a point.

Now round about this time a wonderful initiative was introduced on Trannies, called Black Dog Racing. Talk about perfect timing. I immediately jumped on board and became a huge advocate of the group, helped them out with sponsorships and some marketing and shared my story with the masses. I really don’t mind doing this. It certainly isn’t something I’m ashamed of. Its just part of me….and If I can help someone else then its totally worth it.

Which leads me to where I am today. I’m desperately trying to get back into training. I’ve been injured for the last two years since my crash in Beijing. Three operations later, I’m finally given the all clear to start again. But whilst I’ve been doing this, I’ve had this nagging feeling inside that I had unfinished business. Black Dog Racing fell victim to a whole lot of red tape when the amazing founders registered it as a charity. It just got too much. I asked Steve Fitz, its founder, if, at a point I could continue that work. And that’s where I am today. I have started a group called Blue Dog Sports. Blue Dog Sports is based on what Black Dog Racing started. Its to create awareness of Depression and to promote the benefits of exercise and diet can have on depression.. I’m not offering any mentoring services or counseling. To start with we just have a very cool little mascot “Fang” and a Facebook page. My aim is to get out to a couple of key races and promote the group and create an awareness. Eventually we’ll get to some team events and raise some money for other charities such as Beyond Blue and Black Dog Institute but for now, its about awareness and education. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’ve heard of far too many deaths already this year due to depression and mental illness.

It’s about lending a helping hand, it’s a platform for those who have been there to say that happened to me and this is how I dealt with it. Its helping people to use diet and exercise to manage their depression. To show them hints and tips of how to start a healthy lifestyle and take hold of their destiny.

How is it going to work? By displaying our logo “Fang” tells people you have some knowledge of depression and that you are prepared to talk about it. There is no reason to suffer in silence.

I want Blue Dog Sports to be a source of inspiration and hope for those who are afflicted with depression or those who know someone who has it, but also an opportunity for others to find a reason to challenge themselves beyond what they thought was possible, with the simple thought that you are inspiring and helping those who need a helping hand.

Sometimes it takes someone what has been locked in the dark and survived it, to reach out and say “ take my hand….I know the way”

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Blue Dog Sports

Blue Dog Sports was formed by a group of athletes to both raise awareness of depression and to highlight the positive effects that diet and exercise has upon managing depression.

Its to give those starting out exercising a helping hand. We all know first hand how hard it is to start an exercise regime, but when depression is thrown in to the mix then it gets a whole lot harder.

Its giving athletes a reason to race, to be a positive role model and to debunk the stereotypes that people experiencing depression cant function in a normal manner.

Blue Dog Sports has been formed out of a requirement to fill a gapping hole that is to try and help those experiencing depression for whatever reason, and put them in touch with those that had it in a positive light. To give a bit of hope to those people and to show them it is not the end of the world, and how diet and exercise can have a positive effect on the condition. We are not saying that this is the only thing that will help, far from it, but it has worked for those involved in Blue Dog Sports and to maybe it could be of help to others.

Secondly it was from noting that a lot of people were suffering in silence, not being able to seek help in fear that they would be seen as different in some sort of way, and be seen as the depressed ones.

The concept was simple.


• It’s removing the stigma associated with depression such that people don’t have to suffer in silence. Depression doesn’t have to be depressing.


• It’s providing a positive role model for those people who may be experiencing depression, to show that it can be managed.


• Its providing someone to talk to for those that are experiencing it, just to be able to hear “ that happened to me” or “ this is what I did to deal with it” can be very self assuring.


• Its helping people to use diet and exercise to manage depression. To show them the tricks and tips how to start to change their lifestyle and take hold of their destiny.

• It’s also a way to raise money for charities that are helping people manage depression. Those who have taken on “Endorphin Therapy” can raise money for them at their next event, be it Ironman or a fun run etc. This is a secondary role of the group.

So how is this going to work?


• By being able to put our logo “Fang” on show, this tells people you have some knowledge of depression (by either having it or know someone who has) and that you are prepared to talk about it.


• By providing an on line community, we will be able to provide support. You may be able to take someone out for a ride/swim/run and have a chat afterwards?

Its not a fund raising mechanism, its paying it forward. Whilst raising money is nice to help out those with the dog, so much more can be done by people reaching out.