This is my final offering of 2018 – not a bumper year for blogs (in fact I’ve probably written more netball reports), but I shall endeavour to go out on a high…
After nearly five years of undertaking challenges to try and raise mental health awareness, I decided to take a break soon after the publication (in April) of my book about the challenges and my own mental health experiences.
Over the subsequent months, I have struggled to come to terms with the scale of revelation. And even though the hope remains that the story of a life with a chronic, albeit thankfully mild, form of depression can have a positive impact on readers, the process of evoking long-hidden memories and committing them to paper has taken its toll.
The latter half of 2018 has been a time of increasing introspection and retrospection. I’ve found it impossible to fully understand how deliberately and deeply-suppressed dark thoughts can be recalled (admittedly with difficulty), whilst countless memories of happier times remain lost in the recesses of my mind.
I can remember fleeting moments, not dissimilar to a series of mental photographs, but even though I know the person in the image is me; I cannot associate the memories of that boy or younger man, with the person I have become.
That makes me feel so sad … and sadness is an emotion I have fought so hard (and for so long) to keep hidden. I feel like I am somehow failing mentally. There’s no element of self-pity; it’s simply a reality that for most of the time stays behind the mask I present to all but my closest family and friends (for whose love and support I am constantly grateful).
That said I have become increasingly aware that this period of self-analysis, soul-searching – call it what you will – flies in the face of the message I’ve tried so hard to highlight … and (recently less successfully) live by: it is fine to talk about mental health, to talk about how you’re feeling, and to ask for help if you are struggling.
A line needs to be drawn; and the start of a new year provides the perfect opportunity to regroup and regain some much-needed physical and emotional strength. That strength can then be used to try and support others … and for me in 2019, that will involve using the themes of netball, rugby league, and music as my focus:
Even writing this blog has made me feel more positive. Whatever happens over the next few months (and never fear, there will be updates), all I want to try and do is show that it is fine to talk about mental health and, even though the prospect can seem daunting, it is possible to find the strength to ask for help. You are not alone.
Here’s to 2019 x
The person bowling in this seemingly random cricket photo is actually me, playing for Gateshead Fell at Chorley during the 1995 semi-final of the National Club Knockout– one of the most memorable moments in the moderate career of a distinctly average sportsman.
It was my only experience of playing in front of a four-figure crowd, and although we were (soundly) beaten on the day, this photo always helps me to recall memories from 25 years of playing a game I love.
Injury forced me to retire in 2004; and two years later I moved to Middlesbrough to be with Elaine … a whole new chapter in my life. The thought of becoming involved in another sporting club, cricket or otherwise, never crossed my mind; but then, totally out of the blue, along came Grangetown…
It’s over four years ago since Gel arranged for me to have a go at playing goal shooter as part of a series of “challenges” I was attempting at the time. It’s fair to say I was rubbish, but as I drove home that night - after being given the all-clear by paramedics - I sensed there was something very special about the club.
Gel knew I did a bit of writing and asked me if I would be interested in doing a few match reports for the Prem squad. I started coming to watch the occasional game, and the rest, as they say…
From the sidelines I’ve seen the squad relegated to Prem 3, gain promotion at the first time of asking, play wonderfully well to lift the Prem 2 championship, and have the most fantastic start to life in Prem 1. It’s been brilliant…
More than that though, I’ve been welcomed into the club, and accepted by the players and coaches, even though I have no family connection to Grangetown; and my two daughters are actually older than the overwhelming majority of the squad (apart from Gen … obviously).
My younger daughter plays netball, and my love of the sport grew from watching her; but I can honestly say that I’ve felt every bit as much enjoyment, excitement –and even pride – from seeing this group of girls develop into one of the best squads in the whole country.
Nothing can ever match the feelings you get from playing competitive team sport, but being accepted as part of the “Grangetown family” comes pretty close - and this blog is simply my way of saying THANK YOU.