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Competing and Depression

Ingrid Barclay on Friday, 10 July 2015.

Of course it's possible to compete and suffer depression but I do think that there are better times to make your decision to do so, than others. I didn't make a decision to "compete". I made a decision to get lean and if competing became a possibility, something that was viable I would consider it. My main objective was to make me a priority again and to ensure consistent training as opposed to my previous 2-5 years of what I would call inconsistent training. This of course meant "managing" my depression.

If you are going to do things a little different to me and decide from the get go to compete well I can give you an insight into some things to consider. Deciding that you are going to get up on stage despite your challenges, when you have been in a 6 month constant state of living in your pink dressing gown, you have the black dog by your side more often than you don't, you're not coping with the outside world and the most you see of the inside of a gym is when you look at someone's Instagram photo doesn't bode well. I think to commit you cannot be in one of your darkest periods. You need to be a level above that at least. Because you need to believe it is possible. And while you are seeing a counsellor more often than you see you mail box, you are relying on your parents to feed you fur babies because you "forget" and you cringe at the thought of being around more people than yourself alone you have to acknowledge that now is NOT the right time to make a deal with the stage. IT can wait. I recall returning a heap of videos I had borrowed in the midst of my 2 year love affair with my bed and this woman in the video shop was looking at me really weirdly, because I was dressed like an eskimo vagrant and looked pretty sad. Normally I would have felt an instant, crushing sense of self-consciousness but I recall feeling nothing. If this is where you are at – please don't consider comp. You just aren't ready yet and the writing is on the wall that you won't cope.

Ok so let's say you are functioning with your depression. You are managing it and on a scale that management is at least a 5 out of 10. So say you are managing to commit to 70-80% of your training sessions and you are not needing to have umpteen 'caving days" where you disappear from life. You are "living as though you don't have it" and from the outside looking in, those who don't know you better wouldn't realise that you may live with the problem. Ok, you may be able to cope with the demands and sacrifices that reaching stage requires. And I am not talking about being competitive and winning your class, for the purpose of this blog I'm saying that if you have depression and you make stage that IS winning. That's' won, collected the trophy, the high five, the accolades. You hit pay dirt because in my opinion you did.

Well, one of the first things you probably should take a look at the impact you medication if any is going to have on you. I am not going to blog extensively about mediations here, it would take too long and I am just providing some things to think about here. But know this. Mediations are a metabolic blocker. They can make it harder to get lean. Some medications enable those with depression to feel more motivated and also to cope with stressors better than if they weren't on medication. For those of you who are curious, I was on no medication. I have been off all medication now for about 4-5 years. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly I am a terrible terrible taker of pills (which means I did not prioritise them!), I am so forgetful and usually with anti-depressants you need to be quite vigilant. The second reason (which probably coincides with the first one is that I would really like to be 'natural' and not rely on medications. I think that if I don't have too, that may be better for me in the long run. But defiantly non-judgemental on those who do – in fact I completely understand. IT beats feeling "nothing". And they work so well for some people.

I want to let you in on something about my prep. Most often we hear competitors thank their partners, their family and friends. If you suffer depression please consider how much your family and friends can actively help you in your journey. Because I literally could not have competed without Ji and Renata. It would not have happened. And I will share with you vey honestly with some real insight into my day to day living just what they did to "make it happen" for me and this might genuinely surprise you.

For example Renata did all the work to get my bikini to happen. She spent a couple of hours manhandling me around bra fittings and try ons in and around every bra shop in Geelong (it felt like) so as to send Jo Rogers the right brief and bra to work with. She also designed the sequin pattern and sent it to her and from there on did all the liasing with Jo. Why? Well she is a dress maker by trade, so she is good at this stuff. But also because it alleviated a lot of stress for me. And managing "stress" whether perceived or real is so important for me to be able to cope with my days. So do you have a friend who is willing, able and has the capacity, not necessarily in bra fittings lol to alleviate some or any aspect of the comp prep process? Have a think about that? Or perhaps trade 'comp prep process' for some other aspect of your life for a period of time. So for example, could she/he walk you dog 2 of the 7 days a week to free you up in some other way to enable you to "cope".

How do you handle your work and are you in a position to change you hours at all? Does your work allow any flexibility? Mine did. I always took an approach that even though I was living like I was competing for 12-14 months there was always 1 thing I was determined was not going to be affected – could not be affected. And this was my coaching obligations for Team BC clients. This, apart from my personal health was my number 1 consideration. I could not afford to ever have someone feel their prep in any way, shape or form was compromised because of Ingrid's training, nutrition and depression. So again and this comes back to balance and the ability to know that this was the thing that must be achieved on a daily basis if it was going to happen, I had to ensure that I had "opt out time" daily and at least a 5 hour block on weekends, so usually a Saturday afternoon where I could "log off" from the world, disconnect and do whatever the heck I needed to do in this time- frame to keep me "coping". You may notice that I use the words "balance" and "coping" a lot. This is because if I don't "cope" and I don't attend my physical, mental, and emotional well-being daily I get overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed there is a much higher chance of past triggers for emotional eating being set off and that of course dramatically affects my nutrition.

So both Renata and Ji, especially Ji upped their work load partially on my behalf. Ji would on a weekly basis do extra clients so that I could do other things and sometime this meant he would come inside at the end of a long day to find me on the couch watching tv. This if I let it would or could have made me feel guilty if I let it, but I also know that this is what allows me to be so highly functioning when I am working – and I can get an awful lot done when I am switched on and on my rolls. How do I get on those rolls? By my balance! Do you have this "luxury"? You absolutely may not need it. Again depression and everyones lifestyles are so disparate that you may not need to consider this, but maybe you do?

Anxiety and Competing

Two short weeks after comp, so just a few days ago I was heading to the gym with Renata and I was paralysed with a rush of anxiety. I wouldn't say I suffer a lot of fretfulness but it does rise to the forefront sometimes and often unpredictably. Renata picked up on it, and I could feel my throat tightening and I felt dizzy, unable to breathe well, and my heat began palpitating way too fast. I felt claustrophobic and wanted urgently to turn around and go home. Not the ideal way to start a workout. Do you suffer anxiety? If you do, do you think walking out on stage might be a catalyst for sparking an attack? If so, how do you think you will handle that, since you will only have a split few seconds to decide whether you ae going to walk on stage or not? Does your anxiety make you feel shy? Is it inhibiting? I had a fairly good idea that my nervousness and "worry" about being judged and being on stage would not have much impact- but I do have tachicardia issues and I knew that if they hit me on the day I would be in trouble because my blood pressure drops very very low and I have an irrevocable need to lie down.

So you must look forward and consider all possibilities given your past history and behaviour patterns. And when you get an anxiety attack similar to the one I described on my way to the gym (as in, right outside the front door)...ae you likely to pack you workout in and head home or do you honesty have the resilience to 9 times out of 10, walk through the door and get the job done regardless? Think about this carefully because at the end of the day, 1, 2,4 workouts missed is ok, but when you stat blowing off too many – you ae jeopardising your plan and making the task of getting on stage in good knick too problematical.

To put it in gym terms, when you ask someone for a spot on bench press, you aren't less strong. You just want someone there just in case it is more than you expected or you go for an extra rep or you have addition weight added on. Think of it like that, weight gets added and circumstances change and you need to have a 'spot'. I ensured that I had people in my life who were willing to be there almost at the drop of a hat....to do this for me. And this is why I am so grateful to have these two people in my life and why I genuinely say – without them, managing my depression and doing everything that I did leading up to comp was made possible by their kindness and generosity and their CONSIDERATION and understanding about what depression means to Ingrid.

Look I could write much much more and perhaps I will do a follow up blog 2. For now I will leave it at that to post this and get it out there, to you the reader who is interested in some seemingly simple things to consider. I know 100% I am not the only person to compete or train, or watch what I eat that also manages depression. But I hope that sharing a small snippet of my thoughts and considerations helps you to decide whether you think you are in a good head space, with a good support crew and the abilities to maintain a great sense of balance in order to achieve your goals/dreams of taking stage. Anything is possible but the biggest message I have is do it when the time is especially "appropriate" for you."Dealing with depression is war, and you've got to treat it like one. You can't give an inch of ground. Every seemingly insignificant thing that you can do to improve your situation, strengthens you and weakens the depression; despite it being a constant weekly, daily, hourly, battle, you NEED to stick to your plan to conquer it as it WILL help - in time." – Ingrid Barclay

Of course it's possible to compete and suffer depression but I do think that there are better times to make your decision to do so, than others. I didn't make a decision to "compete". I made a decision to get lean and if competing became a possibility, something that was viable I would consider it. My main objective was to make me a priority again and to ensure consistent training as opposed to my previous 2-5 years of what I would call inconsistent training. This of course meant "managing" my depression.

If you are going to do things a little different to me and decide from the get go to compete well I can give you an insight into some things to consider. Deciding that you are going to get up on stage despite your challenges, when you have been in a 6 month constant state of living in your pink dressing gown, you have the black dog by your side more often than you don't, you're not coping with the outside world and the most you see of the inside of a gym is when you look at someone's Instagram photo doesn't bode well. I think to commit you cannot be in one of your darkest periods. You need to be a level above that at least. Because you need to believe it is possible. And while you are seeing a counsellor more often than you see you mail box, you are relying on your parents to feed you fur babies because you "forget" and you cringe at the thought of being around more people than yourself alone you have to acknowledge that now is NOT the right time to make a deal with the stage. IT can wait. I recall returning a heap of videos I had borrowed in the midst of my 2 year love affair with my bed and this woman in the video shop was looking at me really weirdly, because I was dressed like an eskimo vagrant and looked pretty sad. Normally I would have felt an instant, crushing sense of self-consciousness but I recall feeling nothing. If this is where you are at – please don't consider comp. You just aren't ready yet and the writing is on the wall that you won't cope.

Ok so let's say you are functioning with your depression. You are managing it and on a scale that management is at least a 5 out of 10. So say you are managing to commit to 70-80% of your training sessions and you are not needing to have umpteen 'caving days" where you disappear from life. You are "living as though you don't have it" and from the outside looking in, those who don't know you better wouldn't realise that you may live with the problem. Ok, you may be able to cope with the demands and sacrifices that reaching stage requires. And I am not talking about being competitive and winning your class, for the purpose of this blog I'm saying that if you have depression and you make stage that IS winning. That's' won, collected the trophy, the high five, the accolades. You hit pay dirt because in my opinion you did.

Well, one of the first things you probably should take a look at the impact you medication if any is going to have on you. I am not going to blog extensively about mediations here, it would take too long and I am just providing some things to think about here. But know this. Mediations are a metabolic blocker. They can make it harder to get lean. Some medications enable those with depression to feel more motivated and also to cope with stressors better than if they weren't on medication. For those of you who are curious, I was on no medication. I have been off all medication now for about 4-5 years. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly I am a terrible terrible taker of pills (which means I did not prioritise them!), I am so forgetful and usually with anti-depressants you need to be quite vigilant. The second reason (which probably coincides with the first one is that I would really like to be 'natural' and not rely on medications. I think that if I don't have too, that may be better for me in the long run. But defiantly non-judgemental on those who do – in fact I completely understand. IT beats feeling "nothing". And they work so well for some people.

I want to let you in on something about my prep. Most often we hear competitors thank their partners, their family and friends. If you suffer depression please consider how much your family and friends can actively help you in your journey. Because I literally could not have competed without Ji and Renata. It would not have happened. And I will share with you vey honestly with some real insight into my day to day living just what they did to "make it happen" for me and this might genuinely surprise you.

For example Renata did all the work to get my bikini to happen. She spent a couple of hours manhandling me around bra fittings and try ons in and around every bra shop in Geelong (it felt like) so as to send Jo Rogers the right brief and bra to work with. She also designed the sequin pattern and sent it to her and from there on did all the liasing with Jo. Why? Well she is a dress maker by trade, so she is good at this stuff. But also because it alleviated a lot of stress for me. And managing "stress" whether perceived or real is so important for me to be able to cope with my days. So do you have a friend who is willing, able and has the capacity, not necessarily in bra fittings lol to alleviate some or any aspect of the comp prep process? Have a think about that? Or perhaps trade 'comp prep process' for some other aspect of your life for a period of time. So for example, could she/he walk you dog 2 of the 7 days a week to free you up in some other way to enable you to "cope".

How do you handle your work and are you in a position to change you hours at all? Does your work allow any flexibility? Mine did. I always took an approach that even though I was living like I was competing for 12-14 months there was always 1 thing I was determined was not going to be affected – could not be affected. And this was my coaching obligations for Team BC clients. This, apart from my personal health was my number 1 consideration. I could not afford to ever have someone feel their prep in any way, shape or form was compromised because of Ingrid's training, nutrition and depression. So again and this comes back to balance and the ability to know that this was the thing that must be achieved on a daily basis if it was going to happen, I had to ensure that I had "opt out time" daily and at least a 5 hour block on weekends, so usually a Saturday afternoon where I could "log off" from the world, disconnect and do whatever the heck I needed to do in this time- frame to keep me "coping". You may notice that I use the words "balance" and "coping" a lot. This is because if I don't "cope" and I don't attend my physical, mental, and emotional well-being daily I get overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed there is a much higher chance of past triggers for emotional eating being set off and that of course dramatically affects my nutrition.

So both Renata and Ji, especially Ji upped their work load partially on my behalf. Ji would on a weekly basis do extra clients so that I could do other things and sometime this meant he would come inside at the end of a long day to find me on the couch watching tv. This if I let it would or could have made me feel guilty if I let it, but I also know that this is what allows me to be so highly functioning when I am working – and I can get an awful lot done when I am switched on and on my rolls. How do I get on those rolls? By my balance! Do you have this "luxury"? You absolutely may not need it. Again depression and everyones lifestyles are so disparate that you may not need to consider this, but maybe you do?

Anxiety and Competing

Two short weeks after comp, so just a few days ago I was heading to the gym with Renata and I was paralysed with a rush of anxiety. I wouldn't say I suffer a lot of fretfulness but it does rise to the forefront sometimes and often unpredictably. Renata picked up on it, and I could feel my throat tightening and I felt dizzy, unable to breathe well, and my heat began palpitating way too fast. I felt claustrophobic and wanted urgently to turn around and go home. Not the ideal way to start a workout. Do you suffer anxiety? If you do, do you think walking out on stage might be a catalyst for sparking an attack? If so, how do you think you will handle that, since you will only have a split few seconds to decide whether you ae going to walk on stage or not? Does your anxiety make you feel shy? Is it inhibiting? I had a fairly good idea that my nervousness and "worry" about being judged and being on stage would not have much impact- but I do have tachicardia issues and I knew that if they hit me on the day I would be in trouble because my blood pressure drops very very low and I have an irrevocable need to lie down.

So you must look forward and consider all possibilities given your past history and behaviour patterns. And when you get an anxiety attack similar to the one I described on my way to the gym (as in, right outside the front door)...ae you likely to pack you workout in and head home or do you honesty have the resilience to 9 times out of 10, walk through the door and get the job done regardless? Think about this carefully because at the end of the day, 1, 2,4 workouts missed is ok, but when you stat blowing off too many – you ae jeopardising your plan and making the task of getting on stage in good knick too problematical.

To put it in gym terms, when you ask someone for a spot on bench press, you aren't less strong. You just want someone there just in case it is more than you expected or you go for an extra rep or you have addition weight added on. Think of it like that, weight gets added and circumstances change and you need to have a 'spot'. I ensured that I had people in my life who were willing to be there almost at the drop of a hat....to do this for me. And this is why I am so grateful to have these two people in my life and why I genuinely say – without them, managing my depression and doing everything that I did leading up to comp was made possible by their kindness and generosity and their CONSIDERATION and understanding about what depression means to Ingrid.

Look I could write much much more and perhaps I will do a follow up blog 2. For now I will leave it at that to post this and get it out there, to you the reader who is interested in some seemingly simple things to consider. I know 100% I am not the only person to compete or train, or watch what I eat that also manages depression. But I hope that sharing a small snippet of my thoughts and considerations helps you to decide whether you think you are in a good head space, with a good support crew and the abilities to maintain a great sense of balance in order to achieve your goals/dreams of taking stage. Anything is possible but the biggest message I have is do it when the time is especially "appropriate" for you.