Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Do MotoGP riders get depressed?

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


Do MotoGP riders get depressed?

Riders quitting, riders getting sacked, riders getting hurt; what really goes on in the mind of a MotoGP rider when all his dreams turn to dust?

Sometimes you go looking for an engineer in the paddock. At the end of a practice session you walk into the back of his team’s garage, hoping to find him there, so you can ask him a few questions.

“He’s in the back of the truck,” shouts one of the team’s mechanics. So you leave the garage, climb the steps at the back of the truck, knock on the door and quietly go inside. Unfortunately, the engineer isn’t there, but someone else is.

Deep inside the truck, where the rider has established his own little changing area, the rider sits alone on a chair, half out of his leathers, head in his hands, sobbing his heart out.

You quietly shut the door and retreat, somewhat disturbed by what you’ve just seen. The sobs and tears were undoubtedly genuine, the sign of a rider who finds himself at the end of the road, unsure of which way to turn – whether to keep banging his head against the wall, hoping to smash his way through, or to admit defeat and retreat, waving goodbye to the dreams that have driven him since he was a kid.

Someone is now paying him loads of money to perform, but he’s not performing. Factories, sponsors and engineers try to help but their capabilities are limited, although not as limited as their patience. The pressure is unbearable: it’s not only his wages that demand he performs, there are also the many millions the factory spends on building his motorcycles and hiring the engineers and staff who turn up at races for the sole purpose of making him go fast. He owes a lot of people.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Total votes: 6
Total votes: 2

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Over the course of a lifetime 75% of us will suffer from significant depression. This isn't including grief from losing a loved one, just depression lasting 6 months or more (the reason it isn't higher than 75% is that there are numerous other mental health diagnoses). It is a normal and necessary thing. Evolutionarily advantageous, adaptive. If something isn't working out for us, this is the mechanism by which we let go of it. Otherwise we would still be there banging our head on the dead horse.

Some things are not supposed to work out. Careful judging Zarco. Examine your life, see how many relationships, jobs, endeavors, and ways of being weren't supposed to work out. The key is awareness early, and working adaptively. There is a process by which you can minimize suffering and regrets. But there isn't one without pain.

You needn't struggle too long, to deeply, with depressive and anxious symptoms. They are treatable. They are to be tuned into, and there for a reason.

Don't confuse having lots of difficult emotion with affective disorder. The intensity of life when we are doing something interesting, compelling, challenging - there will be fear, self doubt, sadness, and even some despair. LOTS of frustration and disappointment. Go ahead, don't bottle it up. Allow it, recognize it. Know what it is about. Then be kind, gentle, and friendly with yourself. And get back at it next round. Try differently. Know your egoic crap, and minimize it.

Fear and self doubt, sadness - part of the game. (Particularly, get to know shame and guilt). A bit if depression and/or anxiety can be too. But not for too long (just under 6 months of moderate depression SHOULD happen for you and is about life asking something different of how you are responding...you are growing again. Not despite the struggle, WITH it).

What is Sublimation? (Hint: regarded as the greatest of human defenses, such that it isn't defense). Zarco will either be back in the game running up front in Moto2, or test/replacement Yamaha GP. Bautista will have a ride (either KTM Factory, a good WSBK, or a MotoGP surprise). How do we respond to adversity?

Just had adversity. Responded fine (w others in the world). Noticed me anxious, struggling after. Literally (w myself internally) recognized my rumination and constriction, then responded "got through that corner moment...awareness to next braking marker and turn-in point. Look through, reach awareness flexibly out and through. Don't fixate. Loosen hold on control." Racing isn't a metaphor, it is microcosm.
Gas!

Total votes: 18

This is simply my take on the human condition. Mind can be quite severe with multiple layers of illusion and the parasitic human ego can be downright viscious in its attempt to survive. The difficulty that can arise when experiencing depression, fear or any of the challenging experiences of human existence is the lack of understanding. The mind asks why and it is usually the mind that supplies an answer. Consciousness adopts a seeker mentality (identity) and goes searching for a solution to the challenging situation. Freedom can be found by examining a root belief which is "I am depressed, I am suffering depression" or "I am the one that is depressed." One step towards freedom is saying "depression is present", "that is depression" or "I am the one observing depression." This may open up enough space to take an observer's perspective. Consciousness takes one step back from the role of the person identified as the sufferer and takes the position as the observing witness. This is the truer position. And in actuality, this is the constant position.  

Rather than look for a solution try inquiring into the one that is suffering. Look for the victim of the pain. Can this one be found? Sometimes focussing one's attention intently on the pain can lead to freedom from the pain. I agree with Motoshrink that we are here to feel emotions. By definition e-motions are meant to be in motion. When one gets stuck in depression, for example, then inquiring into the belief that causes the situation to perpetuate can provide freedom from the situation. Are you really depressed? Of course you are you, and you are experiencing depression. But is that all that you are? Are you limited to the concept of being a person or is that just a belief? Were you always a person or were you something else first? Before the genesis of the voice in the head, what were you? For sure there is a belief that has been agreed to that is in conflict with Truth. And we learned and agreed to our beliefs from our elders and siblings who in turn learned from theirs and so on and so on... It goes all the way back to the beginning. No one is at fault.

The person based on identification with the body, mind and the life story held in the imagination is not a reliable reference point from which to observe the play of consciousness as forms. The person is always getting into difficulty and going to the mind for solutions. The mind creates drama through one identity then looks for a way out through another. It is beneficial to inquire into the so-called problem and the one that is suffering.

It is important to pay attention to speech. Identifying as emotions and feelings creates a very tight space. "I am depressed" could be more clearly expressed as "depression is present and I just am." The ego wants us to take emotions personally when the truth is that the false beliefs that give rise to emotions are common to all. In fact the structure of the human ego is exactly the same for all. It is the content, or identity, that is different from one person to the next. The greatest freedom from the human condition does not come as a thought. It is not a mental concept. It is an experience. When the mind provides a thought that creates relief from pain try to not identify with the mind and stay as the observer of the mind and all that is taking place. Just watch the mind.

  

Total votes: 2

Nice! Great to see another meditator working w the nature of consciousness.

More than mild depression, and internalizing like this is a spiral. I go here w people preventing relapse and going forth. Educated by what you delineate, techniques develop doing this FOR them. Post modern deconstructivist work can get a bit of space between person and problem, narrative of "The Depression" and getting curious about "it" like one would w a discovery. Between us we establish "not me" and "not permanent" and "workable." The clinician brings them what they are ready for now in just a way to ventilate and pivot the dynamic at essence as close to THEIR experience as possible. I join THEM where they are.

Start is usually more behavioral and relational, biological/physio. Foundation first.

Total votes: 1

let's not forget these guys are often 19, 20, 21 years old - not well-equipped to handle the pressure yet

Total votes: 3

I retired from a city fire department about nine years ago. I spent 29 years doing that job as a Firefighter/Paramedic. I've seen things your minds will never even imagine. Since that time away from the job I've adapted and been very happy! On the other hand since that period, I have had two coworkers kill themselves. One by hanging himself, and the other shooting himself! If you are depressed please talk to someone about it, don't try and overcome it on your own as you will not without expressing those feelings openly.

Total votes: 6

Thanks for being a white blood cell in a whackadoo world V.

Passing suicidal thought is ok. Really! We have despair, want it to end, and a flash awareness that we have the ability to end our life. Don't sweat that.

Recurrent inclination and planning doing something that could hurt you or a loved one (homicide-->killed by police etc is same)? Stop. Tell a professional right then.

Your County/precinct has a phone crisis line staffed by good enough for that job professionals. They do not just support and advise, they have a comprehensive list of all the treatment resources, and BED ACCESS to inpatient. Meaning, they literally are in the cue with hospitals for access to the limited inpatient treatment services and get to hold and fill a bed for a caller in need.

Or your employer may have an employee assistance program (EAP). Or, your health plan has a phone number for access to outpatient psychotherapists. Make that call, say I referred you for an urgent 1st available intake appointment. It is a medical appointment for which you can take time off work w/o telling them anything about why (confidential). I have successfully treated thousands of people. It is there for you.

Congrats on your adaptive health. And Mototherapy!
:)

Total votes: 2

....excuse the pun.  They are human, their brain biochemistry is no different to ours, why would we expect them not to have the same mental issues?  The stresses may be slightly different but they are there none the less.  

To those who have never seen or been there, and think there is a weakness or that people need to "harden up" or "hang in there", I would liken it to watching one of those marathon runners collapsed in the gutter or staggering around in circles within sight of the finish line.  It may only be 100m away, but it might as well be 100km's.  Talk it up, harden up, steele yourself....words that mean nothing when you're (mental) muscles have been absolutely corrupted by lactic acid. 

And that's what depression is like: your brain is absolutely spent, wrung dry, mentally you are collapsed in the gutter hopefully with some survival instincts left but often not even that.  You are basically living at (or past) your mental limit, at the cliff edge, and someone telling you to stop whining, or just harden up is like telling you to walk across the void: it can't be done.  

Having depression is no weakness. We can not control the Seratonin in our body any more than we can control the hair growing (or not) on our head.  

I don't know if Zarco is/was there, but I suspect his decision was actually quite an easy one: there simply was no other option.  

Total votes: 5

Absolutely. May I lift your lactic acid runner consideration?

Another is Diabetes. Type I needs insulin treatment. Telling them they can do it on their own w diet and exercise is wrong, dangerous, and Illmore A-holery.

Another analogy might be like if someone, say a MotoGP rider, were on a REALLY difficult bike that is also diametrically opposed to their needs, like say...(JZ5 Orange)

;)
Circled back

Total votes: 2

First, props for Motoshrink's post, above.

Everyone up to the rider is paid for their services.  The rider is paid, too.  The rider doesn't owe anyone anything (at least in my view.) The rider is the face (of all those Mat mentioned) and carries all the risk: glory or damnation, riches or not-so-rich, contract or anxiety, another class or retirement. 

Total votes: 3