Written by Kacey Grieves, Outside the Locker Room program facilitator.
I know returning to sport is vital, turning up to game day and being a team player… however when I’m crippled with anxiety it’s not the same.
For the past 5 years I have struggled with postnatal depression and anxiety after a rapid return to work in my small business as a naturopath just weeks after my daughter was born. This was not an ideal situation however, due to the way the cards fell and a combination of personal events, that was what had to happen.
Being passionate about my work and supporting people with mental health conditions for many years I had a lot of tools for how to lift my mood, calm my mind, etc.: yoga, nutrients, affirmations, set a plan, surround myself with loving and understanding people, and most of all stay connected to my community.
My community is largely made up of my friends through my netball club and teams. Sport, community and fresh air are all high on the mental health survival plan. So I would drag myself to netball every Saturday and laugh, smile and play whilst inside all I wanted to do was run away, scream and cry. I held back tears of emotional pain every game, a chest full of anxiety, hoping my brain would give me a break; it was racing faster than my heart.
There were many days I drove places in tears thinking about how I could stop my pain. Luckily I had a lift to netball, because I fear the anxiety to get there could have been too much some days.
This level of anxiety was crippling and went on for 3 years. I swallowed endless herbal stress formulas and nutrients to just keep my head above water, however I believed getting through these feelings was just a matter of time. As I worked on my coping skills, nutrition and lifestyle, I also sought help from a few different personal development courses and life coaches. This was the turning point.
However, the stigma has to stop! It was surprising how disabled I felt, knowing all I know about mental health. It was such a battle to let my walls down and confront the stigma and judgement from some in my community. At the time I was so fearful of being seen as a failure.
Some comments made to me were:
“You don’t have depression, you just need to be more organised.”
“What do you have to be anxious about?”
“You didn’t cope with having a baby.”
Not only did these comments make me angry but they shone a spotlight on the stigma of mental health that I knew existed and was already determined to change. Now I just had a stronger inner drive to get myself better so I could help more people.
Having the support of life coaches, a goal bigger than my pain and setting an intention every day straight after looking at my goal, all gave me hope and motivation. I can’t forget to mention the incredible family support I had, unwavering even when some days I felt like I was no use to anyone.
Interestingly, due to COVID-19, my struggle over the last 5 years was turned around. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt that it has been COVID-19 to give me everything I wanted and missed out on.
COVID has given me the gift of time: time with my daughter; time with my husband I always crave; time in my house doing my own washing, cleaning and regular exercise I have missed. Financially COVID has also been positive for me.These are all things so many others are not having the joy of. I believe they are experiencing a similar change to what I felt when I opened a business the same day I realised I was pregnant – so many uncertainties.
As a result I was feeling guilty. I was feeling bad, like I shouldn’t be feeling good and happy and like I shouldn’t be smiling and wanting to tell jokes. I even started to feel like I shouldn’t do what I would normally do and be generous and gift clothes, meals or emotional love as it could look like I was rubbing it in people’s faces.
So back to my psychotherapist to chat over this new interesting flip in emotions. Here I am with the opportunity to be able to give, enjoy and feel light. To set a new plan and to make the world a better place with my learnings and skills. So this is what I have taken from the 2 polar experiences that are so merged:
- Stigma is still rife and doesn’t serve me
- Love is free for me to give and can be expressed in many ways
- I can calm the storm with medicinal herbs and nutrients, as it settles my busy brain
- With guidance, I can step forward and learn where the pain is coming from
- For me, one lover is more powerful than 5 haters
- Having a daily routine helps me
- I can acknowledge every little achievement and celebrate every daily step forward
- It helps me to set a daily intention
- Having a big picture plan I can look at every morning helps me
- Staying connected to my community – being a timer, scorer or seat warmer – just stay connected is what’s important