Depression hit me hard last year. I reached the lowest I could possibly go, blinded by negativity and feelings of hopelessness. However, it was also the year that I picked up a rugby ball.
I had never considered myself to be particularly sporty. I wasn’t picked for any teams at school, didn’t join any sport societies at University, often opted for a takeaway over going to the gym, chocolate over chin-ups, cake over cardio…you get where I’m going here. It wasn't until Whitchurch RFC Women held a rugby taster session last year that I realised what I was missing out on.
Hannah and the rest of her team at Whitchurch RFC Women.
What rugby has given me:
Training has helped me build my confidence back up from basically nothing. Though I know I am not completely myself yet and I continue to have extreme lows, playing rugby has given me the strength I need to face a lot about who I am and accept what I have been through.
My fitness levels have increased which makes me feel a lot better about myself! Also, exercise = endorphins = tools to combat depression.
I have met some incredible women, some of whom I open up to about my mental health issues, and who always support me when I’m not sure of what I’m doing on the field– which is often! Playing rugby has also emphasised the importance of communication, which is not only essential for teamwork but also for dealing with depression. Talking about my thoughts and feelings has helped me immensely over the last year.
My counsellor, GP and psychiatrist have all stressed the importance of having a routine. Keep doing something at the same time every week even if you don’t want to. Though there were many sessions I thought I couldn’t face, I still went anyway and gradually started to become more interested in life again. For the first time in a while, I had something to look forward to.
Taking a tackle
Rugby has taught me how to take a hit and get back up. I cannot stress enough how much this happens during depression. You feel like you make progress and you get knocked down again, and it’s even harder to get back up knowing that you’ll have to take another hit. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to pick yourself up sometimes, but after a while you start to accept the fact that you will hit the floor, and that’s just part of the game.
"I can’t offer rugby as a cure or solution to anyone else going through depression, everyone is different, but if you find something that sparks your interest, keep going."
I do feel it’s important to say that it hasn’t all been easy. Of course it hasn’t. Nothing about battling with mental illness is easy. There have been times when I’ve wanted to burst out crying, times where my thoughts have spiralled out of control after making mistakes. Depression has a sneaky way of persuading me that I’m not good enough, that I let people down, and sometimes, that it would be better if I wasn’t here. These thoughts hit harder than being tackled by people twice my size, but they haven’t stopped me going back to train every week. In fact, they spur me on to keep fighting what I’m going through.
I can’t offer rugby as a cure or solution to anyone else going through depression, everyone is different, but if you find something that sparks your interest, keep going. All you can do is try.
A big massive thank you to Whitchurch RFC Women for giving me an opportunity to train and learn about such a spectacular and thrilling game. And, of course, for allowing me to be a part of such an incredible team.
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