This is repost of a wonderful piece from new ShowGame contributor Aidan Kelly on his experience in Ultimate to fight confidence issues. Please follow his blog at https://ak19blog.wordpress.com/
Ultimate is unique in so many ways. Considered an ‘almost sport’ by muggles, or that weird hobby by your family, it’s hard to imagine my life without it. To be honest, I don’t know if I’d even still be here.
For years, I’ve had self-confidence issues. When I was a teenager it was pretty terrible, but as I got older I learned to deal with it. And, by ‘deal with it’ I would essentially suppress it for as long as I could. This meant I’d have spells of being incredibly low, to the extent where I wouldn’t be able to function for weeks. But hey, I would always think it was better to let it all out in one giant spell once every year or two than have it affect me all the time. In hindsight, it was pretty poisonous. To put it into a simple, cliched metaphor, it can turn you into a ticking time-bomb.
Ultimate, to me, has always been a release. Whether it’s being able to go run around and let off steam for two hours, or being able to be surrounded by an incredible social circle that can help you without even realising it, sport is powerful. And this one in particular has a unique ability to support you. I recently went to a talk on mental health with Bressie, who is a popular musician and former rugby star, where he spoke of his own battle with depression. He told the group that the reason he was so good at rugby is that it was the only time he could use his anxiety and let it out, and it’s something I can really relate to. (Minus the being really good part, perhaps…)
2014 was one of the worst spells of my life, and amazingly, it’s taken me well over 12 months to actually be able to openly write about it (I started this piece in December of that year). It was long, drawn-out and saw not only repeated breakdowns of relationships but me failing college and having no clue what I was going to do with myself. By the time winter started rolling in I was suffering from full-blown depression and seeing a counsellor. My only crutch? A tiny piece of rounded plastic.
Captaining my college Ultimate team meant I had some sort of purpose that I could at least cling on to during the period where I felt I had nothing else. No matter how torn I was feeling or how many tears were shed throughout the day, I could throw my boots into a bag, stick on a pair of shorts and be able to run training. While I was stuck thinking that my whole life was crumbling into nothing, Ultimate helped build it back up piece by piece.
For a brief period, I thought that my depression would ruin what I loved so much. There would be times that I’d be out with friends and suddenly out of nowhere get this overwhelming pit in my stomach and have to get out of there. At Windmill last year I spent hours crying in the arms of friend thanks to an anxiety attack caused by my own sudden lack of self worth. The social side of Ultimate is such a strong part of what makes the game so great, and I was starting to get fearful that I wouldn’t be able to handle it anymore, simply because I didn’t want people knowing about my own inner battles. But thanks to some really close friends that I’ve thankfully made through Ultimate, I’ve been able to come to terms with my issues and realise that I needn’t worry. I haven’t had a real episode since that weekend, thankfully.
Ultimate isn’t just a game, it’s a full-blown culture. You don’t see footballers from Cork making friends with lads they’ve played against in Dublin, nor do you see a huge group of them go to your local boozer every weekend and drunkenly take their clothes off to a Robbie Williams tune. The beauty behind Irish Ultimate is that it as therapeutic as it is infectious. I’ve made friends for life through this sport and they’ve helped me through my darkest days over the years. Only a handful have ever seen me at my lowest (you know who you are), but many have inadvertently contributed to the fact I can get up each day.
Apparently, here in Ireland, at least one in ten of us suffer from depression. That’s a hell of a lot of people, however, it’s still stigmatised. Like I already said, it’s taken me over a year to write this, simply because I’ve still got a fear of people knowing what can go on in my head. So, I guess if there’s any point to actually be made from this piece is, ‘thank you’ for being part of something that is well and truly life-saving, and to keep looking after one another. Depression is a real illness that people, like myself, can become extremely talented at hiding, and some people might not be able to reach out to anyone with it. For anyone that feels that way, understand that we are an insanely great group of people that will always be there to help lift someone up when they’re at their lowest, I’ve learned from experience.
Featured photo by Claire Baker for theShowGame at WU23UC 2015.