Bend athlete plans cross-country triathlon fundraiser for Mental Health Awareness Month

“It’s normal not to be well,” says Justin True

(Update: added video, comments from Justin True)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Bend resident Justin True has fought many battles in his 30s, not only in mixed martial arts, but also in a fight people often face alone: ​​depression. .

“Finding mixed martial arts, I felt like it was something I could handle, something I was used to,” True said Tuesday. to her.

True found a passion for pushing herself to the limit early on, thanks to her training in mixed martial arts. He trained in Bend and traveled the world to hone his skills, including gyms in the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium and Asia.

Still to this day, he relies on the lessons he learned in the octagon to help him overcome crippling depression and inspire others.

“Back in the fighting days, when you were stuck against the cage, you had one of two options: get up and keep fighting, or accept defeat and get beaten some more,” True said. “You have to keep fighting, whether it’s against life or against the emotions in your head that tell you to give up. Even if it’s only a second longer, those seconds add up to minutes, then days. Eventually, these battles add up to win the war.

Growing up with a very difficult childhood and strained family relationships, True said he had attempted suicide – twice.

“I didn’t pay attention to everything that was going through my head,” True said. “I just blocked and put up a steel curtain. It was the worst thing I could do. I think what we all do is we don’t talk about our feelings. I thought : ‘I did not choose to be here, why am I here?’ You know – “I didn’t choose to be born, so why can’t I choose to leave?”

True said he decided at the age of 18 that he could not continue to experience the traumatic events that scarred his psyche. Even after being tortured, burned, threatened and locked in a cage, he found a reason to keep going.

Out of a desire to help others going through difficult times, True is launching True Triathlon – billed as the longest triathlon in US history – in May to help foster greater mental health awareness. The goal is to raise $500,000. He partners with a charity called Bigger Than The Trail which focuses on supporting people struggling with mental health issues through running and treatment options.

True hopes the triathlon will serve as both a mental health discussion platform and a fundraising catalyst. He has invited all who are willing to join him on his journey for as long as they wish. As he takes each step, he hopes well-known athletes, actors, musicians and thought leaders will join Justin for segments, creating space to share their own stories. True plans to document the real triathlon and the stories shared along the way as part of a feature film.

“Swim sixty miles along the Atlantic coast, and I’ll swim south to Miami. And then I’ll cycle from Miami, 3,400 miles across the United States, to San Diego,” True said. “Then I’ll cycle 600 miles north to San Francisco, ending at the Golden Gate Bridge. “

Although it may seem like a physically insurmountable task, True’s past mental and physical challenges have prepared him for this new test. His past endeavors include completing a 150-mile tandem bike ride through the Oregon Cascades, an Olympic triathlon carrying a 90-pound concrete Thor hammer, a marathon while pulling a truck over 26.2 miles and a 29-day, nearly 500-mile march through Madagascar in which he encountered many life-threatening situations.

We’ve previously reported on True’s “adventure athlete” activities – a 24-hour straight workout, the time he towed a car 26 miles on foot.

“Triathlon is a perfect metaphor for what I’m trying to convey,” True said. “Swimming in the ocean symbolizes the waves of life – sometimes you can’t tell the top from the bottom, but eventually you’ll reach a clear spot, and at some point the hard part will be over.”

True said he hopes to break the stigma around mental health, while showing others the “undeniable power of speaking their truth”.

“We need someone to care about that, and I think, yeah, to end the stigma around it — that ‘you’re not crazy, you’re normal,'” True said. “It’s normal not to be well.”

Charles T. McConnell