Wild About Football, the Most Distracting Thing on T.V. – How Watching My Favourite Team Helps Me Manage My Anxiety
I have been a football fan for about as long as I remember.
When I was in primary school I proudly supported our local team Leeds United and played as much football as I could. To be fair, I was really keen to play any sport and being naturally athletic put in a good place to prove my way into most teams I tried for.
An early memory I have is turning up for a football class after school. Now, because it was after school all of my less hard-core teammates and kick-about pals were nowhere to be seen. I got ready to meet the coach who actually worked at Leeds United alone but really excited.
Then I walked out onto the pitch on my own, looking for at least one person I knew. I looked over to the big bunch of boys that had arrived for the session who looked extremely surprised to see me. I quickly realised I was the only girl to show up. I felt my confidence wobble as I tried to show a brave face.
It goes without saying, for the first little match we played, I was picked last. I’m pleased to say, I was never picked last again. For the rest of that season, I was picked first. I could play in goal and didn’t mind throwing myself around and could play up front and score just as well or not better. I quickly got the name ‘secret weapon’. These are really good football memories for me.
...naturally athletic put in a good place to prove my way into most teams I tried for... I quickly realised I was the only girl to show up. I felt my confidence wobble as I tried to show a brave face.
When I wasn’t playing at break-time, being coached after school or kicking the ball about near home, I was talking about football or watching football on television. I usually had someone to watch with and would barely ever sit down I was so excited, shouting at the screen and waving my hands around. I was football mad.
As the years went by, I started to fall away from sports as I discovered drinking and smoking and all things that teenagers do. I loved a good game to watch just like I did athletics, tennis and both summer and winter Olympics but I didn’t feel the need to play anymore.
Falling in love with Liverpool FC...
It was about this time that my cousin started making it obvious to me how much he loved Liverpool FC like his mum/my auntie did. I had certainly lost all interest in Leeds United so listened to him reeling about them. Once when he visited Yorkshire from Essex where he lived, and begged my grandparents to take us both to Anfield, the Liverpool FC ground. I was less than impressed but was offered the Beatles museum which was much more my music-head scene.
Well, that trip changed my life. I remember watching a highlights video at Anfield, showing Steven Gerrard bringing his team back from 3-0 down to win the European Cup. It literally brought tears to my eyes and I was a passionate Liverpool fan from that moment on.
We watch the Liverpool games together now like I did when I was a kid, jumping, shouting, waving hands and the rest. We just love the game and love our team. I’ve even written poetry about my team and their games.
Since I was diagnosed with PTSD, I have found it almost impossible to relax for a reasonable amount of time. I have been told by so many professionals that I need to find distraction in order to avoid suicidal thought and getting lost in flashbacks. It’s more difficult than it sounds to be relaxed or be distracted and I’ve tried many things: listening to music, playing music, working out in the gym, drawing, running, mountain biking etc. and nothing really works for me.
Then when a friend visited me when I was really low, before I started treatment, he persuaded me to go to the pub with him to watch England in the World Cup and that actually hit me as a good idea so off we went. It was a really good match and afterwards I realised I hadn’t thought about my abusive past or suicide for a solid two hours. I was amazed.
Planning football as medicine...
A little later on as I went to stay with family and started treatment, planning in football games to watch each week if possible became part of my treatment. This was after I explained that was the only thing I could think of that really took my mind off the mess I was in and why. Admittedly, this was before I had really started writing so I really didn’t have any other way to keep myself safe from myself.
It was a shame I couldn’t watch football in hospital because I had become used to watching every Liverpool game in the Premier League. There were two really important games for us but as they were the later stages of the Champions League, my mate managed to get them on his television for us all to watch, even though I was the only one really interested. That’s four hours in total I wasn’t thinking about being a psychiatric inpatient.
Since being discharged, I have made a note on the family calendar of each and every game Liverpool are playing so I can plan it into each week. That’s two hours of distraction each week.
I’ve finally got the courage to try out for the local women’s team, tomorrow night. There are so many good things that could come from that as long as anxiety doesn’t wander in and spoil it. There’s teamwork, fitness, socialising and my love for the sport to be enjoyed if I can stick with it.