This past Saturday, I rode my bike up the difficult Sydenham Road climb in Dundas, Ontario for the first time. In 2013, this hill became known as “Clara’s Climb” after Winter and Summer Olympic medallist Clara Hughes, who used to live and train in the area. Clara’s accomplishments as both a cyclist and speed skater are well known. But beyond her sporting achievements, Clara has been an advocate for mental health. Her autobiography, “Open Heart, Open Mind” documents her mental health struggles that paralleled her athletic career.
Thanks, in part to Clara, there has been increased awareness in mental health issues in recent years. With initiatives like #BellLetsTalk, much has been done to help remove the stigma associated with mental health issues. I’ve recently learned about an annual cycling event across Canada called “Ride Don’t Hide”, which is hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
On June 24, 2018, the CMHA will be hosting their 7th annual Ride Don’t Hide event across Canada with rides in seven provinces. Fundraising efforts will support programs and services in communities, workplaces and schools across the country. I’ve registered for the Waterloo-Wellington ride, which starts and finishes in St. Clements, just west of Kitchener-Waterloo. They’re offering distances between 10 and 80 km and I’ve signed up for the 80 km ride.
My awareness with mental health began just a few years ago when I took a leave of absence from work for over a month due to stress and anxiety. I had frequent visits with my family doctor and a social worker to talk about the things that aren’t easy for me to articulate. I still feel the stigma about my struggles and there are people who are close to me who will find out for the first about my illness upon reading this.
I started to take anti-depressants shortly after, and while these have helped, I still have times when the gray moods won’t go away. I’ve been learning more and more about my moods and triggers and I’m slowly learning to accept the way I am.
I’m supporting Ride Don’t Hide in 2018 because I know there are others who, like me, are struggling and I know that there’s much more we can do for them. Cycling is one activity that has provided me with a way to temporarily escape the thoughts in my head that cause anxiety, stress and depression. It’s not a permanent fix, but it’s a healthy activity, both physically and mentally.
Please consider sponsoring me for this ride and supporting this great cause by clicking this link: