Pappas, who competed for Greece in the 10,000m at the Rio Games (setting a Greek national record of 31:36.16 in the event), says she spent her whole life working toward the Olympics.
“I’ve always been an extremely motivated person,” Pappas says in the video. “And that mindset took me all the way to the Olympics, but it didn’t prepare me for what would be the greatest challenge of my life.”
After she represented Greece at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, her mental health spiralled downward, and she was eventually diagnosed with severe clinical depression.
“It began with sleeplessness. I couldn’t turn my mind off…” Pappas says. “I was so unprepared for this tremendous crash.”
Compounded by injuries, lack of sleep and a refusal to stop training, her situation nearly led her to commit suicide — just as her own mother had done when she was four years old.
Now she’s speaking out so others don’t have to experience what she endured.
“I understood that like a broken bone, I wasn’t going to feel better overnight.”
After working to recover, Pappas says she has a new outlook on mental health. “So many Olympians have experienced a mental health injury,” she says. “What if we looked at mental health the same way we do physical health?”
Like with her physical health, Pappas works on her mental health every day. Just like that broken bone she mentioned, just because it heals doesn’t mean it can’t be broken again, and that’s the same with mental health injuries.
“We aren’t going to lose this time.”
Pappas’s book ‘Bravery: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas’ will be available in January.