Talking about mental health isn't easy. Talking about your own struggles with mental health is even harder. But it's also important. It removes the stigma and sends a message — you're not alone.
In addition to donating all UNITY 2023 proceeds to NGOs with a focus on mental health, Velocio is also highlighting ambassadors who are willing to speak up about their own mental health journey.
Velocio Ambassador Beau Marksohn discusses his own experiences with mental health below.Explore UNITY 2023
I grew up in a highly abusive environment. As a result of my trauma I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression from my earliest memories. I also developed body dysmorphia from around the age of six or seven; I was unable to even take off my shirt at the beach as I felt so uncomfortable in my own skin. I started using food to numb myself around this age and put on loads of weight very quickly (by the time I was 16 I was 170 kilos - 370 pounds).
I started using drugs, alcohol, and smoking cigarettes around the age of 11 or 12 and spent the next 20+ years in active addition, as well as having severe eating disorders. I found anorexia and bulimia around the age of 17 or 18 and lost all of the weight in an unhealthy way, going the other direction and being severely anorexic for a long time and compulsively exercising. It wasn’t until I went to treatment in 2016 that I even realized the extent of my addictions and eating disorders - I’ve been in recovery for the most part ever since.
Cycling has helped me in immeasurable ways: It has really enabled me to challenge my body dysmorphia in ways I never thought possible and it often is the thing that gets me out of the house when I feel like I can’t face the world. Cycling has given me a form of exercise that I can enjoy, rather than exercise just being a form of self-harm, as it had been for so many years previously.
Cycling has placed me in a position to speak very publicly about my struggles with mental health and has allowed me to help so many people along the way, raising awareness around things that are often unknown or unspoken about, such as body dysmorphia. Cycling has given me a sense of purpose at times when I’ve felt like I don’t have one. It connects us with our inner child - we’re literally like a bunch of grown kids out there pushing pedals and I think for someone like me, it has been healing to connect with my inner child in that way.
For me, cycling is synonymous with community, which has played a huge role in supporting my journey from a mental health standpoint.
One of the best things about this sport of ours is that there are so many different ways to do it and I also absolutely love a very long and hard day in the saddle, completely solo, just me against myself and testing myself physically and mentally - I love finding the boundaries of what I’m capable of and then smashing through them.
On an individual case-by-case basis I think the cycling community is very supportive of people with mental health and frankly there are a lot of cyclists who do struggle, both openly and silently - there is a certain allure of cycling for someone who struggles with mental health as it can easily be perceived as a means to escape.
The cycling community has a lot to answer for in regards to inclusivity: this includes gender, race, body types, sexual orientation - it has historically been a pretty brutal environment for anyone who isn’t a white, straight, cis, middle-class, male.
I think cycling is trying to change — there are a lot of individuals and brands who are working hard to smash the historical issues within the sport.
For me, the absolute first and most important thing for people who are struggling is to say that aloud to someone, not to keep it bottled up inside. It is so important to share when we are struggling as it reminds us that we aren’t alone and often allows someone else to love us until we are able to love ourselves.
The second piece of advice is that cycling is NOT therapy - I find it problematic and dangerous when people refer to cycling as such, as there is no replacement for therapy or at times medication if properly prescribed by a doctor; cycling (or exercise) is a really important part of the puzzle in regards to an overall approach to improving your mental and physical well-being but it can’t be relied on alone as a ‘cure’ for significant mental health issues.