This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
When Peloton instructor Kendall Toole was a college senior in 2015 she was struggling, but no one knew. The University of Southern California film student and cheerleader was a master at concealing her depression.
Even Toole’s closest friends were in the dark. Like everyone else on campus, they saw a bubbly straight-A student and accomplished athlete.
“I didn’t want to burden anyone. I didn’t want anyone to have to bear that weight of something that I felt was only my job to fix,” Toole, now 28, told TODAY Health. “So I smiled and kept it to myself. I look back at pictures where I appear so happy and I remember the thoughts I was having at the time."
One night, Toole remembers feeling numb as she turned her phone to silent and was overcome by dark thoughts.
“It scares me to this day to say how seriously I was considering (ending my life)," Toole revealed. “I was so tired of feeling pain that I just couldn’t feel anything anymore. The numbness was suffocating. Feeling numb is dangerous territory."
Toole remembers standing on the roof of a building, staring "transfixed" at the ground, when suddenly she had a vision of her parents, Suesie and Rick, reacting to the news of her suicide. The image hit her like a lightening bolt.
“I saw in that moment what would become of my family,” Toole recalled, choking back tears. “And I couldn’t do that to them.”
The fitness instructor has also battled obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) since she was 11.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 2 million American adults live with OCD, a disorder characterized by recurring thoughts and behaviors or compulsions.
To help manage her symptoms, Toole continues to see a therapist and she takes an antidepressant.
“I think there’s a stigma around medicine. I had my own stigma for a long time about how I shouldn’t need this. I shamed myself,” Toole said. “But my mom said, ‘Honey, it’s no different than if you were diabetic. If you do not take your insulin, you will not survive. Having a mental illness is no different than having a physical ailment.'”
Toole calls her mental health journey, “a lifelong commitment.”
It’s a commitment that Toole, who joined Peloton in 2019, frequently opens up about on the bike. Last week, she released her second mental health ride in honor of Mental Health Awareness month. The final song is Logic’s “1-800-273-8255,” which is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“Mental health doesn’t discriminate. It does not care how much money you make. It does not care what your race, religion or creed is,” Toole explained.
Toole said she has been flooded with messages from Peloton members sharing their own heartbreaking stories. Many have thanked her for inspiring them to get help and for helping them to recognize that their child needs help. Toole wishes she could give all of them a hug.
“I hid my whole life. I pretended I was this cool girl with everything under control. That wasn’t helping me. That wasn’t helping anybody,” she said. “When we’re vulnerable we can positively impact people. That's when we can make a difference."