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You may never have heard of Gracie Gold, but you need to know her story.
Grace Elizabeth Gold is an American figure skater. She began skating at the age of eight, winning a national title and an Olympic bronze medal in 2014. She won another national title in 2016.
The 2018 Winter Olympics are only five months away. At a time when skaters are working feverishly to prepare, Gracie is stepping away from her sport. Her explanation: “I am currently in treatment for depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. I will not have adequate training time to prepare and compete at the level that I want to.”
Gracie’s decision is both rare and courageous. As sportswriter Eric Adelson notes, “Depression, anxiety and eating disorders are almost always confronted in private, and in many cases they aren’t even acknowledged or realized by the person facing them.” This is especially true for Olympic athletes: “There is always another practice or sponsorship meeting or fan greeting to do for this once-in-a-lifetime moment. Often the needs of the self are suppressed or ignored.”
The numbers are staggering: According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 46 percent of Americans experience at least one mental illness at some point in their lives. The CDC reported in 2011 that antidepressant use in the US had increased nearly 400 percent in the last two decades. Antidepressants are the most frequently used class of medications by Americans ages eighteen to forty-four years.
Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill were known for significant episodes of depression. Celebrities such as Terry Bradshaw, Owen Wilson, J. K. Rowling, and Gwyneth Paltrow have suffered from depression as well. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was treated for depression and alcoholism and went on to serve as chairman of the National Association of Mental Health.
What causes depression? Counselors cite neurotransmitters in the brain, negative thinking patterns, concurrence of other diseases, side effects of medication, genetics, and difficult life events. A major step forward is admitting the disease and seeking help. That’s why Gracie Gold’s story is so courageous and so significant.
If you’re dealing with symptoms such as feelings of sadness or hopelessness, anger or irritability, loss of interest, sleep disturbances, tiredness and lack of energy, reduced appetite, slowed thinking, feelings of worthlessness, or frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, it is vital that you speak with a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible. If you’re not struggling with these challenges, it is vital that you support and encourage those who are.
Where is God when depression strikes? “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). He invites you to “cast all your anxieties upon him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). He promises that “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
Remember that “Christ literally walked in our shoes” (Tim Keller) and is walking in yours now (Hebrews 4:15). So, “let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (v. 16).
Max Lucado is right: “God never said that the journey would be easy, but he did say that the arrival would be worthwhile.”