Mental Health in Extreme Sports, An Athlete Speak Out
Professional Kiteboarder and Founder of Dirty Habits, Graham Howes, has opened up to the world about a very taboo topic: Depression & Anxiety in the world of Extreme Sports and Athletes. Graham shares his personal story as a World Class Athlete living with ADHD, Epilepsy and Major Depression.
Below, is a few words about his experience, paired with the conversation he released on social media just a short time ago. Feeling honoured to share such an inspiring and courageous piece of work, we urge you to listen and start the conversation as well.
When I was diagnosed with Major Depression in July 2019 my life changed forever…
It was one of the biggest turning points of my life. After years of confusion, anger, frustration and in a very, very dark place, I could finally make sense of why my mind had turned on me. A mind that had always been so powerful, so creative, so great had just stopped functioning. It’s incredibly scary when something we rely on, something that controls every aspect of your life, your health, relationships, skills, your wellbeing, all of a sudden fails you.
I fought it for so long, trying to figure it out until it fully exhausted my every being and left me crippled on a couch with the blinds shut for 2 weeks…
When I got home from the psychologist my fiancé, Candace took me to, he had diagnosed me with major depression. I scraped together all the energy and physical power my overweight, slow body could (I was over 90kg’s by this point, I’m 79kg’s today) just to open my laptop, and start to research this and try to beat it by educating myself. The Doc tried to put me on medication, but I was too stubborn, ‘I’m not weak, I have been through much worse than this in the past, and I managed, I’m a survivor.” I would spend the next month trying to muscle my way through it, with this new information I could take back control of my mind, or so I thought.. After weeks of reading self help books, trying meditation, changing my diet, quitting booze, talking, writing, even Ice baths.. You name it I tried it. And then before I knew it, I was back on that couch in the dark with curtains shut! I hadn’t surfed or kiteboarded in over a month, I had zero physical energy or motivation. But I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. So in one last attempt, I scraped myself off the couch and forced myself to go kite, back to my happy place, the place that fixed everything, the ocean. Where, when I’m in my flow… and nothing else matters. Or so it did in the past… I had my 1st panic attack while kiting on a long downwinder. It felt like someone had stuck their fist down my throat, I couldn’t breathe or get air into my lungs, my heart was pounding through my wetsuit. I thought I was having a heart attack. I had to somehow hold it together for another 3 Kilometers to get to where my car was parked, every minute felt eternity. It was the scariest moment of my life. Depression had now taken from me, what I loved the most. The Ocean, my happy place.
What does my future hold for me? Well, hopefully I’ll be making less videos about drinking beer, partying and ass’s, and hopefully use Dirty Habits as a platform for Athletes and leaders to talk about real shit. Life changing shit. And Inspire change and growth. Maybe talking openly about this topic might inspire someone just as Michael Phelps inspired me, to be brave. Maybe that person may be a role model to younger kids, maybe, just maybe, my obituary could instead read “Graham, gave me the courage to ask my friend how he really is doing”
People don’t fake depression, they fake being ok.
Remember that and be kind.
Mental Health in Extreme Sports and Professional Athletes.
Professional Kiteboarder Graham Howes, Speaks Out.