In this guest post, Ty Perkins shares his personal struggle with depression and finding the confidence to persevere in Triathlon.

This story’s a tough one for me to share, so at first I decided to let it go and forget about it. This month; however, it has frequently come back to mind, and so I’ve decided to share it.
Here it goes: I grew up playing football, basketball, and I ran track in high school. My entire life I’ve always dreamed about competing on the world’s biggest stage: the NFL, NBA, or running at the Olympics. One problem: I was never nearly good enough to make it to that level.
In the first football game of Junior year, I received my fifth concussion. My high school football and basketball career was over. I was crushed.
A few years earlier during my freshman year of high school, despite not knowing how to swim, I decided to do a triathlon! I taught myself how to swim by watching YouTube videos, and Olympic swimming highlight reels. I fell in love with the sport.
After the concussion my Junior year, I started swimming everyday to get ready for the next triathlon season. That fall, I got an email from USA Triathlon advertising the “Junior Elite Series” – a gateway to professional triathlon racing and what I thought might be the Olympic stage.
This Junior Elite series was filled with elite triathletes. I knew I could compete in the run, but I had literally just taught myself how to swim and knew I wouldn’t be a contender. I thought if I could find the right coaching, my swim would improve enough to be a contender.
I made a big decision and decided that if I wanted to chase this dream, I’d have to commit and join an elite triathlon team. At 17 years old, I left my home in Oregon to train with a club in Utah. My parents or coach didn’t even know that my true aspirations were to compete in the Olympic Games for my country. I kept it to myself.
Then adversity hit. A lot of it.
Very soon after I left Oregon an immense level of anxiety and depression began to grow in me. Slowly but steadily I began to become weighed down with feelings of inadequacy. I had minimal experience training with a group of athletes of that level and I felt like I didn’t fit in.
I remember calling my mom only one month after moving breaking down in tears because I didn’t feel like I belonged, and I wanted to come home. I was depressed. The days grew darker and darker, until it felt like there was no light in my life at all. This continued through Christmas training. I was exhausted physically and mentally, which made my emotional state much worse.
Every night after the first four nights of training camp I would call my mom and break down in tears; she helped me find the motivation for the next day. Despite significant improvements I was making in the pool and in my training, but this didn’t help my mental state.
The depression began to get so bad that I was missing training sessions, and I wasn’t recovering the way I needed to from workouts because I wasn’t sleeping. I spent a month back home to try to recuperate.
Despite what seemed like a month of recovery, my first race back went terribly and I was pulled from the race. A year of training, leaving my family, dealing with crippling depression – for what seemed like nothing. My mom was with me at the race, but I was more depressed than ever. To make matters worse, in my next race I crashed on my bike in front of the dismount. There were hundreds of professional athletes that saw this.
I was crushed. My dream seemed hopeless. I felt like giving up.
I had a mental breakdown, and eventually got to the point where I considered giving up on triathlon, and giving up on life. I was injured from the bike crash, and no one would question me if I decided not to race anymore. But I decided to continue. It was brutally difficult. I wasn’t performing well.
I had a tough decision to make: I could either call it quits on the season and go home with my mom to Oregon. Or I could stick it out for two more weeks and race at Olympic distance national championships. I wanted to badly to give it up and call it quits, but I knew inside of me that I needed to stick it out two more weeks and race Olympic distance nationals, just to prove to myself that I could do it, and so I did!
For the next two weeks, everyday was a battle. My depression was at its peak, but I decided to do the race which just happened to be the greatest decision I’ve ever made. At that race I finally had the swim I felt I was worthy of. I finished the race as the fifteenth fastest 16-19 year old in the country. Up from 58th place the year before.
That race didn’t save me from my depression, but it did do something miraculous for me, however. It restored hope in me for my goal, and I plan on racing again next season, and the season after that. It also gave me the courage I needed to talk to my coach about what my goal in the sport really is. Getting to the highest level – the Olympic Games. My coach has full confidence in my ability to get to that level one day, and this newly minted relationship has dramatically helped our relationship moving forward.
My gold medal moment was not necessarily my time at the finish line, but persevering through the season and the lessons it taught me. I wanted to quit so badly, but I didn’t. The time I raced will be forgotten, but the strength I developed from pushing through it is forever.
Now I’ll have a new competitive spirit of perseverance that wouldn’t have been developed without the struggle I experienced. This is my Gold Medal Moment. I hope my story will inspire others to acknowledge their struggles, communicate and push through.
What is your Gold Medal Moment?

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