MY MENTAL HEALTH JOURNEY - by Megan Mitchell
My Background Story
Hello! My name is Megan Mitchell. I am 23, turning 24 in May. I started my racing career in 2019 and currently drive a Purestock at Flamboro Speedway in Ontario, Canada. It is my happy place, where I always have a smile on my face.
However; I can openly admit that I struggle with my Mental Health - and some days there's a lot hidden behind that smile; even on a good day. That’s just the way Mental Health can be.
When I think back into my childhood, I recognize that a lot of my behaviours were anxiety-related. I can remember these habits as far back as 2006 when I was 9 years old. I was an over-thinker, and felt as though I needed to be the solution to family hardships. This included unavoidable things, such as the passing of a family member. It put a lot of strain on my mind.
These habits followed me and got worse as I got older. Around the age of 13, I started having attack-type feelings during high-pressure times - I couldn’t breathe and had to gasp for air. My family recognized this as anxiety and took me to a doctor for a diagnosis.
Megan straps in for a race at the controls of her Purestock race machine.
My Intro to Medication
At 13 years old, it was recommended that I be put on antidepressants. I did not accept this idea, I thought there was no reason for me to take a pill to feel happy - there is nothing wrong with me. As a stubborn teenager, I lied to my doctor. They would ask me questions such as, “How is your sleep? Do you eat well? Do you often feel helpless? Are you scared of something happening to you?” I told them all positive answers, even if it wasn’t true. I got away with this for years.
Acceptance and Adjustment
When I was 14, I had a very close, and young, family member pass away. This was my breaking point. I went downhill fast. I started skipping school, I didn’t want to shower, getting out of bed was hard. I started getting very depressed, I’d say things such as “I wish it was me who died.”
It took me over a year, and by the time I turned 16, I accepted what was happening. I hit rock bottom and realized that taking a pill did not mean something was wrong with me. I had been through a lot. I had a chemical imbalance in my brain, and that pill will help balance it.
It started with just half of a pill- that helped me for awhile but my doctor and I agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to try a full pill. This worked even better, until it started wearing off. We agreed to up my dosage to one and a half pills. I thought I was on a clear path now. A couple of years later it wasn’t as effective. I was so emotional, I thought nothing would help me. At this point my Mental Health was affecting my relationships and school life. My doctor introduced a new pill, this one for anxiety. This took another year of changing doses. We finally discovered that right dose- one full antidepressant and one full anxiety pill. This is the dosage I am on today, and I have been for 2 years now. I’ve accepted that it might not be the last change made to my dosage. I’ve also accepted that I need to work on myself for my own Mental Health. I can’t just rely on my medication. I need to take care of my body, this is something I’m still working on today. Lift the Visor has given me an amazing outlook on that.
September 7, 2019 - Megan's first feature race. Notice the lifted visor?
My Mental Health In Motorsports
I still struggle with my Mental Health some days. Even at the racetrack; my happy place.
I find myself strapping in, thinking about the things that could go wrong. I go into fight or flight mode. My heart starts racing and I start struggling to breathe. That’s when I lift my helmet visor...literally. I lift it up a crack, enough to get some air, and I just breathe. I’ve learned to strengthen my mind, and recognize when I’m giving myself anxious thoughts - and I stop those thoughts in their tracks. They are nothing but negative thoughts, they aren’t reality. My family follows me to the chute, having them at my window before I roll onto the track eases my thoughts. By the time I get my front tires on the asphalt, my anxiety goes away and I find myself choosing fight over flight.
Megan checks over the controls in her Purestock prior to making some laps.
As someone who is still affected by Mental Health every day, I promise to be there for anyone who needs it. I want to be a ‘Safe Place’ for those in Motorsports. Whether someone needs advice, to be heard, or just someone to relax with them; I’ll be there. I know how important it is to have a safe space where you don’t feel judged, but understood.
It can be extremely hard to reach out to someone like your family or your friends. I get that. Never hesitate to reach out to me by email; MeganEAMitchell (at) gmail.com, or on one of the social platforms below.