J’den Cox: ‘You’re capable of making it through’

American athlete J’den Cox has had to battle depression and learn to cope with partially losing his hearing during his career as a wrestler. Here, the world champion and Olympic medallist discusses overcoming challenges, becoming a mental health advocate and training towards Tokyo 2020.

  • J’den Cox is a world champion wrestler, Olympic medallist, and mental health advocate.
  • J’den recently opened up to the Olympic Channel Podcast about overcoming the challenges of depression and becoming partially deaf.
  • Check out the resources on Athlete365 designed to help you stay #MentallyFit.

Depression is something that I’ve struggled with throughout my life/career.

I think that anybody who has a lot going on in life… It’s so fast-paced that sometimes it is really hard to take time to slow down and take time for yourself. I think that sometimes we almost accidentally bury things, which then really bury us.

Yes, from the outside looking in, people might look at my life and think I’ve got everything. But depression can affect anyone.

I think that it’s tough because it’s like a constant thing in your mind or in your soul that’s just dragging you down. And so I think that each day that you make it through it is a victory.

Someone can look at me as somebody who’s in pretty good shape, gotten to go to world championships, and been to the Olympics – so you have to fulfil that image. Yes, from the outside looking in, people might look at my life and think I’ve got everything. But depression can affect anyone.

I think that in talking about these things and putting these things out there, the battles I’ve had with myself, going into therapy, I can be a voice to say: you’re worth it. You’re enough. You are beautiful. You’re capable of making it through. That’s what I want people to understand.

Losing my hearing

How it actually started is a mystery even to me. But doctors believe that it was hereditary because my father was born deaf in his right ear, and my sophomore year of college, I started losing the hearing in my left ear.

That was why I was experiencing dizzy spells and not being able to go up elevators or stairs – I would start feeling like the world was shifting. I was freaking out about it.

My student advisor at the time put me in ASL [American Sign Language] classes and I started learning sign language, which became a huge part of my life.

My teacher was a huge inspiration to me because she started deaf at the age of 23. And so to see that whatever happens, that this is possible, you can still live a great life, communicate, know about music and enjoy it, that was huge.

I need to get back on making sign videos on my Instagram and Twitter. I used to do that loads as I just wanted to share it. I think there’s so much beauty in the language, and I’m thankful I had people in my life that helped ease the chaos in my mind.

I even got a tattoo on my left forearm and it says, ‘If not now, then when?’ and the letters are in ASL. That question is a big motivation for me.

Looking ahead to Tokyo

A lot of athletes were getting ready for the trials and were mentally and physically ready to pop off, compete, and make the Olympic team. Mentally, drawing back and calming down was probably the hardest thing for me.

So I’ve decompressed through reading, relaxing. I’m excited now because anytime I’ve spent a good chunk of time off the mat, I’ve come back so much more energised and excited about it. I’ll be ramped up and ready to go, and also full of appreciation that I am able to do it.

Listen to J’den on the Olympic Channel Podcast, and check out the resources on Athlete365 designed to help you stay #MentallyFit