The Truth About Mental Health and Powerlifting

Written by Ivy Knight

This is a personal experience and should in no way be taken as medical advice. If you need help seek advice from a licensed professional. 

When I realized that I needed to talk to a professional, I felt completely out of control. I kept trying to walk away from my life not because I didn’t love it but because I was scared that I was the reason it wasn’t better or that I was going to do something or not do something that would cause it all to crumble. I was fragile. I couldn’t be encouraged or consoled but tough love wasn’t an option either. I didn’t know why I was feeling the way I was feeling so no one around me could help me either until I talked to a professional.

Powerlifting got me to a certain point. It made me realize that I was stronger than I thought and that I could do really special things with this newfound strength. I was proud of myself and that gave me confidence. I found people, women, that cheered me on for the things that made me different. It did wonders for my mental health but when I decided to take a break to concentrate on my health and my business I got lost. That lost feeling made me scared. Being scared took away that confidence that I had found and then it felt like the world was coming down and me. The simple solution was to go back to the barbell but that didn’t work this time. I was lower than I was the first time I picked up the bar. The stakes were higher this time. If I failed I had so many people that I would disappoint and that was more than I could deal with.

See, the thing is, the reason I lacked so much confidence before I started lifting needed to be explored. Powerlifting was and still is a great coping mechanism for the anxiety that I was experiencing but not lifting wasn’t the cause of it. 

Therapy saved my life. I learned how to cope with stress in small ways and in big ways. I learned some of my triggers and what behaviors to notice before I get too low. I learned what things from my childhood created the habits that I was exhibiting as an adult.

I’m not perfect but I’ve grown and I’m still growing.

I realized that finding the root of the problem and working my way up was far more important than just getting passed it. Nothing aggravates me more than when someone passes depression off as simply being sad or anxiety as "just stress". If you have either or both, you know it’s more.

From my experience, I’ve never felt more like an athlete than when I understood that a bad lifting day doesn’t make me a bad person. How I handle myself even when things aren’t going according to plan is more important than how much I can lift. It’s made my lifting more enjoyable because I’ve taken the idea of having to be a perfect lifter out of it and have focused more on becoming a better athlete and that includes taking care of my mental health. 

Now more than ever, we need to take care of our mental health. We may not be able to physically go to a therapist or maybe you can’t afford one but there are books and services that can get you some help. There are even apps that might help. Do the research. You’re worth it.


  • Marion McGrath : April 04, 2022

    Thank you for sharing your struggle, it helps me to know I am not alone . Therapy and the gym perfect for my soul.

  • Starburst : May 04, 2021

    It’s great when you have a gym family. If you don’t have that it’s harder. (Like in my situation) Unfortunately, I suffer from a mental illness and have been lifting for 3 years. Yes, it has helped me tremendously. Lately, I haven’t been lifting much. I don’t have any lifting friends nor do I have gyms that are into PL around my area. It’s depressing because I don’t know where to turn. There are not many nice and welcoming people in the lifting community in my area.

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