Anyone who thinks they are immune to experiencing depression does not understand the disease. While there are many life scenarios linked to depression, when sickness and disease strike, many people go through a time of depression. When he was diagnosed with keratoconus, an aggressive eye disorder that leads to progressive blindness, Olympic bobsledder, Steven Holcomb discovered firsthand that having a chronic physical illness can definitely take a toll on one’s mental health.
As his keratocconus worsened, Holcomb began to feel a distinct change in his personality. He started withdrawing from others and became overcome with depression. He tried various treatments, but to no avail. Eventually he memorized the vision test given to U.S. athletes because he didn’t want his teammates to discover just how bad his eyesight was, a discovery that might end his career.
According to Holcomb, it’s one thing to be born without sight but quite another to find yourself growing more and more blind each day. In 2007, his sight had deteriorated to a devastating level, and his depression got the best of him. He found himself secluded in a hotel room downing a deadly combination of whiskey and 73 sleeping pills. Despite his attempt at suicide, Holcomb woke up to see another day. It was in that moment he knew he was alive for a reason and had been instilled with a greater purpose.
After 12 years searching for a cure, in 2008, his efforts paid off. Holcomb stumbled upon Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler in Beverly Hills who was able to surgically restore his sight to 20/20. Undergoing the innovative, new procedure allowed Holcomb to continue his career, and he even went on to win the gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Holcomb initially didn’t want to discuss his condition with anyone because he didn’t want to be perceived as weak. A true overcomer, he describes his life journey as “tough”, but “amazing”. As Holcomb’s story
proves, however, success lies in persistence, how we choose to view life’s tough situations, and reaching out to others for help when needed.
Every day, Family Guidance Center works with adults and children affected by depression and other mental illness. While mental illness isn’t something that is chosen, it doesn’t have to define the course of a person’s life. With support programs like that offered through Family Guidance Center, there is hope for a brighter future.