Fri. Jan 28th, 2022

Olympic gold medalist Derrick Adkins spoke to the students, faculty, and friends of WCU Wednesday evening in the Sykes Theater about his personal tribulation with depression as the fourth part of “Beating the Blues,” a LUVIM program.Adkins described his ordeal in depth to the audience, beginning with when he first noticed the symptoms up until his present-day dealings with depression. After approximately 40 minutes, there was a question and answer session between Adkins and three interviewers. For the last half hour, the audience was able to ask Adkins questions.

One of the main goals of the evening was to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness, especially depression. This issue was stressed not only by Adkins but also by the interviewers.

“There?s nothing to be ashamed of infeeling this way. I?ve achieved many things in my life. I?m an Olympic gold medallist, and I still feel this way,” stated Adkins.

Adkins is most widely recognized for his accomplishment in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. There, Adkins ran the 400-meter hurdle in a time of 47:54, winning the gold medal for the U.S. However, he is now becoming known for advocating awareness of depression and for sharing his personal story. Adkins first noticed his depressed feelings during his early teen years, but the feelings seemed to disappear over time.

At the age of 24, after he graduated from Georgia Tech., these feelings resurfaced. This time, the feelings were worse, and he contemplated suicide on several occasions.

“Things were going pretty well in my life, so I didn?t know where these feelings were coming from. I just ignored them. That?s how I dealt with it,” said Adkins.

Ironically, his depression did not affect his running ability. Many times Adkins would use his depressed feelings and anger to fuel his running.

“I just kept setting higher goals for myself hoping that once I achieved those I would feel better. ?When I become the top hurdler in the world, then I?ll be happy.? But I wasn?t happy,” stated Adkins.

Adkins became the 400-meter world champion in 1995, but the same depressed feelings still existed. After talking to a counselor in late 1995, Adkins was diagnosed as a clinical depressive due to a chemical imbalance in his central nervous system. This meant that his depression did not stem from any unresolved issues in his life, but rather was caused by his genes.

Adkins was put on medication to relieve the symptoms of depression, and after two or three weeks, he began feeling better. He enjoyed life and being around people, and was now sleeping well. He thought the problem was solved.

However, the medications affected Adkins physically. He became drowsy and lost his strength and endurance. His running abilities began to suffer. Adkins stopped taking his medications for that reason, and two or three weeks later, his strength and endurance were restored. He was able to run well again, but without the medication, his moods suffered.

“I felt like I was in a no-win situation,” said Adkins. Throughout the summer games in 1996, Adkins was off of his medication. As a result, he was able to compete to his full potential and finished in first place in the preliminary, semifinal, and final rounds to win the gold medal.

This should have been the happiest time of his life for Adkins, and it was for about a week, but he explained that happiness soon subsided and his depression returned.

It was at this time that Adkins decided to resume taking his medication. He has been on and off the medication for the past eight years.”Perhaps one day I won?t have to take it anymore. Until that time comes, though, I will continue to take my medication because it helps me,” explained Adkins.

Adkins strongly suggested several times that anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, fear, or any other mental illness should seek counseling. “Don?t be too proud to seek help,” said Adkins.

Adkins tours the country telling his personal story of depression and how he is dealing with it in hope of reaching out to others to help them through their tough times.

Adkins also recently wrote a book entitled “Let?s All Get High: Inspiration for Generation X,” that deals with his story of depression, but that also talks about will power and achieving one?s goals.

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