Roller Derby Saved My Life

By Lindsey Watson

Urgh, the drama right? I know, I get it. I’m sure it seems like a ridiculous thing to say but it is no exaggeration I promise. Let me explain why.

I have struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager. I have had many highs and many lows and I understand that just as it is with 1 in 4 people in the UK who encounter mental health issues at some point in their life, my emotional state will always be a focus. It doesn’t consume my every waking moment, but I am aware of it.

One of my darkest moments happened around 2014. I had possibly the worst year of my life. I found myself very alone and turned to alcohol to make myself feel better. It was not a new feeling but this time it consumed my every waking moment. I couldn’t escape it and I felt like it was getting the better of me. I knew something was going to happen. But it was up to me what that something was going to be.

I went to my doctor and told them everything. They listened. They told me they understood. They asked me what things made me feel good and I told them dancing with my best friend and playing roller derby. They told me to do that more. haha simple right? not quite but they told me why this should be my focus. We worked out the right medication which would rely on me doing something that  would produce serotonin but it would help me keep hold of it. They told me about SAMH (Scottish Association of Mental Health) and their website that is full of helpful suggestions for not only people going through their own mental health issues but their friends and family. I started a ‘good times’ diary. I wrote 3 things that happened that day that made me feel grateful and happy. I threw myself into training. I had 100% attendance. There were days when I couldn’t even talk to people but I still stayed on track (and the roller derby track!) to make all 3 sessions each week. I started noticing that both my skating and my mental health were improving. I kept visiting my doctor along with a therapist and we all monitored my progress using a chart that asked questions about my plans. They went from suicidal plans to plans for the future. I wanted to be on the A team! I wanted to get to playoffs in America! I stopped thinking about the negative things that had been affecting my life and concentrated on different goals.

Now I am not saying that if you feel terrible and are having mental health issues you should play roller derby and everything will get magically better. I took the first step. I spoke to someone. The hardest but bravest thing that I have ever done is admitting to someone that I didn’t know that I felt weak and I could feel that a dark cloud had gathered above my head. The combination of medication, therapy and exercise brought me out of the black hole but a sense of belonging and value came 100% from roller derby. I understood that I was worthy. My team mates needed me as much as I needed them. I know that I wouldn’t be here today, now medication free, writing this with my laptop in the corner of a large sports hall, in between watching roller derby games, surrounded by the community that I love and that supports me if it wasn’t for this beautiful, powerful, empowering, tough and glorious sport.