By James Kelly
April 14, 2014
Even though she has six Olympic medals, athlete Clara Hughes struggles against depression every day.
Speaking to an assembly of students at Colonel Gray high school April 14, Hughes said she puts one foot in front of the other every day not knowing what to expect.
Hughes spoke at Colonel Gray as one of her many stops along her biking trip across Canada to raise awareness for mental health illnesses and the struggle people face every day.
For April 14, she has planned to bike from Charlottetown to Truro.
During the assembly, she said the depression was probably mostly due to her upbringing.
“I had a really hard childhood. My father was verbally abusive to my mother, and they separated when I was nine.”
She said she thought the fighting and abuse was her fault.
“I felt there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t stop the yelling. I remember hiding in the closet crying, just waiting for it to stop.”
Hughes told the students about her troubles as a teenager and how she struggled in high school.
“I was smoking a pack a day and I got into weed which didn’t help anything at all. The path I was on was absolute destruction.”
The one thing which helped Hughes change her whole lifestyle was watching the Olympics on television. She knew one day she wanted to be an Olympian.
Alanna Stewart, a graduate from Colonel Gray, told the students she also struggled with mental illness in the past.
“People look at those with mental illness and say ‘there’s nothing wrong with them’ but I want to tell you the smiles we put on are fake. We could be up one day and down the next.”
Stewart was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her high school years and struggled on a day-to-day basis to not break down and cry.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple case of ADHD or a larger disorder such as schizophrenia. It’s a group struggle, and the struggle is real.”