Monday, 6 February 2012

Tripping on the Track: Anxiety and Roller Derby -- Part One

Like many skaters, my derby life is impacted by a medical issue. Unlike a lot of skaters, however, my issue isn't a bad knee or, say, asthma. I've had anxiety issues on and off since childhood but only started treatment in the last year. At the moment, I'm on medication, seeing a therapist and trying to eat well in order to keep my general health in good condition.

Since starting derby, my anxiety has had varying impacts on my experience of the sport. I started derby before I started my medication and that went as well as could be expected. The effects were clearest if I was even a few minutes late to practice. If the clock read 7:01, I wouldn't be able to get out of the car. I would get upset or bargain with myself, but eventually I would just go home. Even on good days, I would have headaches and nausea during the time before practice (something that goes back to my days of Karate for Kids and my dad accurately predicting I would be fine as soon as I got there). And, as my dad predicted years ago, as soon as I got into the YMCA (or went home), the symptoms went away.

As I started medication, this subsided. I still had pre-practice jitters and still felt socially uncomfortable during practice - to this day, I still have trouble shaking the sensation that I make people uncomfortable - but it was livable. For a while, I was getting to practice fairly often. Then again, for a while, I was on tranquilizers.

More recently, though, I've been having trouble again. Because of my academic work (ostensibly), I haven't been making it to practice at all. I tried again on Friday night. I got a ride and managed to stay at practice for about 30 minutes before I broke, cried, and called my partner to ask for a ride home. It was only as I was taking off my gear that I realized that I had been so anxious previously that I hadn't noticed I had forgotten to put on my elbow pads.

I could identify particular things that made me anxious that night: I felt as if I had lost key skills during my time away, which led me to feel too inexperienced to do regular drills and too "old" a skater to get away with doing basic skills training with the fresh meat; I felt embarrassed for staying away so long; I felt dumb for forgetting one of my knee pads; I felt anxious.

In some ways, it really comes down to that last one. On some days it seems like no matter how perfect conditions might be otherwise, my anxiety ramps up and undoes everything. Perhaps the thing I resent most about anxiety is that it takes away the activities you love. And I do love derby. I love it enough to, unusually for a derby girl, face the prospect of throwing up before practice.

So, what's an anxious derby girl to do? Check back on Thursday for some ideas about keeping your derby worries limited to how impossibly good your shorts look.


  1. I had no idea! Kudos to you for sharing this, and for your attempts to work through it.
    I'm going to share this with my crew, as I'm sure there are many people who will identify it and make use of your upcoming tips.

  2. Anxiety is tough stuff - I know. But so are folks who choose to play roller derby! Do what you can and skate it out xo

  3. Thanks for sharing this. Although a terrible condition to live with (no matter how mild or aggressive it may be) I am glad to see I am not the only one in roller derby who has this. It is rarely talked about but a lot of people seem to suffer from it.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this. You have the words that I don't, you say the things that I feel too. I am not happy that I am not the only one who feels like this (I wouldn't wish Anxiety on anyone) but I am happy that at least one person can relate to the derby aspects of Anxiety

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Awesome post. Looking forward to reading the next.