Thursday, 9 February 2012

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

Last Monday, I asked the question: what is an anxious derby player to do? Obviously I'm no professional, but I can speak from what has and hasn't worked for me.

Totally Off the Track

Deal with the anxiety itself. For some folks, a combination of therapy and medication can do the job. Others prefer to do yoga and eat right. It probably wouldn't hurt to do all four of those things. My point is that if you have anxiety, working with it is a daily process, even on the days you're not exposed to the things that trigger your anxiety. Make sure you're actively engaging with your anxiety off the track and positively reinforcing your efforts because you're doing hard work.

Regarding therapy, if cost is a concern, check to see if your student union, employer or parents have any coverage that can ease the cost. Local hospitals may even have out-patient or group therapy programs that you can participate in at no cost. Check in with your local mental health resources. In my experience, I've had a number of therapists over the last fourteen years of being in and out of counselling and it took a lot of work to find ones that worked for me at the time. Doing goal-oriented cognitive-behavioural therapy has helped me feel more able to intervene when my mood and sense of well-being start to go south. You have a lot of options, however. For Canadian examples, see the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health or the Mental Health Helpline.

Within Your League

First thing's first: be open about your anxiety with your derby family. Don't lie. Being open will take a great deal of the shame and embarrassment out of your anxiety. If that's intimidating, consider telling someone you trust in your league, so you can get their support. Once you share with them, being open with others may seem less scary. Personally, I came out with last Monday's blog post and everyone's been amazing.

Chances are, anyone you tell will do their best to be supportive. But beyond that, letting the anxiety cat out of the bag will better enable your league to help your derby experience by modifying things for your benefit; for example, if you bring it up with your skater rep, there might be an alteration in how practices are structured, if a particular aspect of practice triggers your anxiety. Or if you're feeling behind, ask a fellow skater for extra training. Derby is, at heart, about the skaters. Any league worth its salt will support you.

On Skates

Even if anxiety affects your derby life, you might be fine once you have your quads on. You might not be. Be sure to be open and honest with yourself: don't try to ignore, deny, or rationalize your way out of your feelings. If you're at practice, be at practice - try your best to be present, even if it's difficult. Check in with a derby buddy and when in doubt, take a deep breath and check in with yourself. Ask why you might be reacting a certain way and what the relevant things are that you can and can't change. Above all, practice forgiveness toward yourself.

My Bottom Line

When your anxiety impacts your ability to do an activity you love, it can be unbelievably tough on you. It can be hard to remember that the effort is worth it. But you are worth it. If you are living with anxiety, you are doing something hard and you are being someone brave. You are my hero.


  1. i loved reading this. I am fresh meat at rollerderby. I ended up going last Thursday. I think i had a panic attack. I felt like an idiot. I was wobbly on my skates. Felt like i was holding people back and was close to walking out in tears. I'm going to carry on going because i don't want to let myself down or let my anxiety take control like it has alot throughout my life.
    This blog was great to read. My boyfriend wants me to try tai chi. I probably should.

    Thanks for writing this blog :)

  2. I am fresh meat on my team but not to roller derby. I have been skating for almost two years. I still struggle with panic/severe anxiety before practices, scrimmages, and/or bouts. At times it is debilitating - I have skipped practice before because of unwarranted fear. Your post was very encouraging that at least (if nothing else), I am not INSANE. My fears usually dissipate once the whistle blows – then I KNOW what I have to do. ..but prior to that I am nearly paralyzed by my inner voice of negativity and worry. I am hoping that this will dissolve after a few more official bouts, but currently it seems to affect my ability to push myself to the next limit. What am I afraid of? Death. No. Injury. Not really. Shame? Not being good enough? Making a stupid mistake? Getting goated by a strong D-Wall? Looking incompetent? I know I have seen vets that I respect deal with all of these issues – I never thought less of them in that moment. Why, then, do I put so much pressure on myself? After all, many of them have 8 years to my 2. So, I fail? Then what? Life goes on….I know that. Why can’t I convince my nervous system, my body and mind that I AM able? I know I will survive and life goes on…and it is ONLLY 2 minutes per jam…2 MINUTES. I should be able to survive nearly anything for 2 minutes, right? And, I can. I do, every time. It is the days, hours, minutes before the jam that psyche me out. I can buy elbow pads, wrist guards, knee pads, helmet and a mouth guard to protect me from the brutality of derby. Where can I buy PEACE and confidence in my ability?

  3. Anxious Fresh Meat here struggling with getting my bearings on quads while managing out of control social phobia. I definitely feel a lot less alone after reading this.

  4. Great post. I was one of the people you mentioned that arrived at your site looking at morning anxiety. It's amazing how within 5 seconds of waking up I am in an anxiety state. Like you mentioned, the days it is the worst are when I just lay in bed and think about it.