In derby, we talk about health a lot. What foods we eat, exercises we use, etc. One thing that doesn’t get mentioned as often is mental health.
Sure, we talk about how derby has given us confidence or made us proud of our bodies, but what happens when derby doesn’t fill the gaps? Like it or not, sometimes derby doesn’t fix everything. If you’re struggling with mental health issues, it can even hurt.
I deal with depression. Derby has done wonders for my mental health, but it’s also put me in some bad spots. It’s taken me years to figure out how to deal with the bad spots. I haven’t figured it all out. There are still bad days, weeks, and sometimes months. But I thought I’d share some things that seem to work.
1. Find an Accountabilibuddy. Find someone on your team who knows what you’re dealing with. Talk to them. Let them know when your struggling. Maybe they’re dealing with something similar, and you both can work through the issues together. Sometimes, having someone to watch out for you and recognize when you aren’t yourself can keep your mental state from degrading more.
2. Get some sleep. The training schedule and all the extra events that you need to participate in for derby can wear you down. All those commitments may be robbing you of sleep. You don’t think as clearly when you’re sleep deprived. That can make your brain play tricks on you. Clearing time to get some quality sleep, even if you think you’ve been sleeping okay, can do so much to get your brain back on track. (Here’s a good article with sleep facts that may surprise you.)
3. Say no. You hear about burnout towards the end of the season. It’s commonplace, but it doesn’t have to happen to you. If you realize you’re overcommitting, learn to say no. This one is hard for me and something I constantly have to remind myself of. Decide what’s really important and what can be handled by someone else. You aren’t Wonder Woman, and even she needs help sometimes, too.
4. Take some time off. The pressure of all the practices, the committees, the organizing can put you in a frenzy. I’m sure there are tons of things you’d like to accomplish before you’re done with derby, but derby isn’t going anywhere. Take a week off. Take a month off. Take a year off. Stepping away from something that has taken over your life can give you a chance to breathe and reevaluate. When you feel more in control, come back. Derby will be waiting for you.
After going all out with Houston Roller Derby, my husband and I had to make a quick decision to move back to Savannah. I immediately hit the ground running. I coach junior derby once a week, I head PR for the Savannah Derby Devils, and I play for the B Team. Couple that with getting used to a new sleep schedule (day-sleeping makes me feel like a vampire) and falling back into the swing of a demanding job, I’m worn out: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I took this past week off from derby because I desperately needed to sleep. The lack of proper sleep was keeping me from giving my all for my team, and frankly, making me a horrible person to be around.
The World Health Organization has released it’s first ever report on suicide prevention. First. Ever. According to WHO, more than 800,000 people successfully commit suicide each year. That number doesn’t even include how many try. Last Wednesday was Suicide Prevention Day. We don’t all get to the point where suicide feels like an option, but dealing with mental health issues sucks. I hope you’ll see this and recognize that you aren’t alone. We play derby as a team. Let’s tackle mental health as a team.