Posts Tagged ‘depression’

This article was originally published in the Bristol Pitbulls programme in our match against the Swindon Wildcats. Bits in Italics are new additions to the post.

A while ago, I posted a picture on Instagram and lifting the lid on my mental health issues. To be honest, I have been wanting to do this write up for a long time, but haven’t – for one reason or another – had the guts to do it. When I initially posted the picture, I did not expect the avalanche of messages, “likes” or subsequent re-tweets – though I find it rather rather ironic that you have to ‘like’ someone’s status about mental illness. I did not post the picture to get likes or re-tweets, but rather to show people that there are those who deal with mental health issues within a competitive, semi-professional sports environment.  This was brought on by some comments I had seen on various social media platforms and club officials calling others “mentally ill.” This article has not been written so that I can go on some ego-trip, but to encourage talk around the issues of mental health in a competitive sports environment.

Where in “normal” society, the stigma around depression and mental illness has dissipated and it is better understood, it is still carries a stigma within sports. I’m not saying that everyone is understanding about depression and would rather people just ‘shake it off’. However, in sports it is often seen as a weakness and players can be seen as ‘damaged goods’ as depression can hinder the career prospects of a professional athlete, or a prospect. In the world of sports, specifically in hockey, chirping is part of the game. If someone publicly states that they suffer from depression, you can expect that opponents will make use of it to try and gain a mental edge.

I have been dealing with depression and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) since November last year, or at least that’s when I sought help, while in honesty, I’ve been probably dealing with these problems for a lot longer. Rather than confront my issues I started to spiral downwards and I had come to the point where I felt that ending it all would be the best option. I was unable to talk about how I felt, because at the time it would’ve felt like admitting defeat. Though I now realise that I should have sought help sooner.

Before then, it was a real struggle at home, at work, at hockey and at the gym. I was having anxiety attacks before I could walk into the office or any other public place and always wanted to be the first one in the changing room so I could get settled. I felt I had to put a face on to be in any situation that required any form of social interaction. In truth, I would’ve rather been curled up in a ball on the floor.

It was – and still is at times – an emotional drain to go to a social situation, but at least I am not at a point where I feel like people (people that I don’t even know), are talking crap about me. I was getting really paranoid about things, even when going to town, I would think that people around were constantly talking about me or judging me. The same would go on at the gym, where normally, I would listen to my own music, but had to start taking my headphones out to make sure some meatheads weren’t talking crap about me.

So why speak out? I feel that there isn’t enough talk about mental health in the world of pro-sports. While there are several noble causes, like #BellLetsTalk, I can’t remember than an active professional player would have spoken out about their issues. There are a number of cases where athletes have come forward post career to talk about it and it is admirable. But to have an active player stepping out and saying “I suffer from depression,” would certainly highlight the issue and to show that it is possible to succeed.

Am I worried about potential backlash from other players? No. During my career, I’ve had opponents/opposing fans say they wish “I’d die”, I’ve been called pretty much everything under the sun, but I try and approach it as part of the game and nothing personal. Besides, the beloved child has many names. My worst enemy on the ice is myself and it is something that I am working on. I set myself high standards and if I don’t meet those standards, I will get angry at myself and start to resent the whole game.

Why keep this from my teammates and coaches? To me this was a personal issue and not a problem the team had to deal with. I didn’t want any kind of special treatment from coaches or conversely (wrongly) that my ice time would be reduced because of this. Additionally, I didn’t want my teammates to act different around me or watch what they had to say. They don’t and it was the group of guys in the room that kept my sanity.

But won’t that be true now, I hear you ask. Well, it might be, but I am in a good place now where it doesn’t affect me in the way that it did in the past. There was a time when I had to block certain social media channels (such as @NIHLNewz on twitter) because the stuff, where intended as a joke, was really getting to me, even though I only received two tweets from said account. It is all well and good to joke and to have a laugh in the team environment and with the fans, but when it comes to the online realm, it is always worth remembering that there is a person behind the joke you are making, and you can never truly know how they might feel about it.

There has been a lot of talk about mental health of late and some media outlets have stigmatised the issue in the aftermath of the GermanWings tragedy. “News” outlets such as the Daily Mail have made a big splash about it, reporting on its front page “Why on earth was he allowed to fly”, implying that any depressed person should not be allowed to operate machinery of any kind. There was also a tweet from a professional Twitter troll Katie Hopkins saying that “all depressed people need is a pair of running shoes and fresh air,” or that all depression is, is like standing in the rain with a Primark paper bag. To this I can only reply that Katie: I work out 5 times a week at the gym, I run 5 times per week and I play hockey at a competitive, semi-professional level and yet I am still struggling with mental health issues.


Where I do agree with the sentiment that exercise helps with mental health, it is not the only solution. I should know this, I went years without medication or seeking help and spiralled deeper and deeper . I find solace at the gym and weight lifting as well as hockey, but like I described above, when you are in the grips of depression, it is really, REALLY, difficult to actually get going and start moving. The threshold that you need to step over is monumental and if you haven’t experienced it yourself, it is difficult to understand. But to say that depression is something that is a minor nuisance (standing in a rain with a paper bag or your public transport running late) is just ignorant.

The reason why I wanted to lift the lid on this was to show that I am in a good place where I feel comfortable about talking about these issues and to show that even when the world drop-kicks you in the face it is possible to go on.  It is always worth carrying on. If me talking about it will help just one person, then it was definitely worth opening up about.  At the same time, whilst I’ve reached a ‘comfortable’ place mentally, I know I am not out of the woods yet, but every time I talk about this, or write about it, I feel better. So with that, if there is a reader out there that needs help, I’m here with open heart and ears.

So it would appear that my physical symptoms of the concussion have subsided. I no longer suffer the headaches that I described earlier. I still get waves of nausea every now and again, but overall things have taken a turn for the better. However, I am still not 100% symptom free. If you saw me on the street and spoke to me, you probably would not know that I had anything wrong.

However, there are clearly still issues in the head that I need to work through. My handwriting, short term memory and general writing ability being the top ones that are my concern at the moment. As you might’ve seen from the twitpics earlier this week, my handwriting has taken a bit of a nose dive, to the point that I get frustrated with myself when I’m trying to write by hand. I have since resorted to taking all my notes on a laptop to make sure that I am able to decipher my notes and actually remember what I was doing, rather than having to hire an Egyptologist to tell me what I’ve written.

As for the writing ability, I can write at my normal pace, but I have to pay extra care into what I write. Sometimes what I write is not what I was supposed to. I forget words from sentences and sometimes the structure of sentences is a little bit wrong. I’m not using the excuse that English is my second language and that would be the reason why, but these are mistakes that I wasn’t making prior to the head trauma.

My memory is still a bit all over the place. For example, I dunked my hand into a coffee cup full of hot coffee the other day as I thought that it was full of sweets. Who puts sweets in a coffee cup? I don’t know but I guess it made sense in my mind before burning my fingers and thinking “Hang on just one darn minute, these are not jelly beans.”

The other issues I still have relate mainly to self image, but this is not an emo diary so I’m not going to start writing about what pants I want to wear and how I want my hair to look and so on.

Suffice to say, I’ve taken significant steps in recovery, but there are still a lot of things that just don’t make sense and a lot of things I find I’m questioning. Whether it’s a personality change caused by the latest concussion and one that has accumulated from the four others I’ve had remains to be seen.

The awesome thing is that I was able to last a whole work out a few days ago. OK I wasn’t pressing nearly the same weights as before, but it felt good to give the body some abuse after laying in a dark room for a week and a bit.

I thought I’d take a break from updating the daily concussion update, because there was really nothing new to report and I doubt you want to read stuff like: “my head still hurts etc”. Everything is still slightly off kilter and I’m not feeling a 100%, though I have taken significant steps to recovery, or at least I feel I have.


I had an appointment with the doctors yesterday and what got told what I had feared. You might recall that I said I had 18 out of 21 symptoms listed for post concussion syndrome (PCS) and basically the doctor told me that I’ve got the condition. I had secretly wished that he would say that you’re still not fully recovered but you’re about 95% there and that it would be OK to resume normal activities.


What scared me yesterday was that I was told that it was likely that I had a small bleed in my brain as well that he didn’t spot upon first examination. However, the bleed was (if there was one) was minor to the point that doctors wouldn’t have done anything for it i.e. drill a hole in my head or remove a piece of skull.


My moods are still all over the place and I keep going from being happy to being sad to flat out enraged for no apparent reason. On a personal level this has been a trying test of patience, and my patience is wearing thin at times.


For the first time today, I wrote something by hand rather than by computer and here’s the difference. This picture: is from notes that I took on the 1st of March and here is a picture of my hand writing today: Spot the difference?


On a positive note however, I have been allowed to start doing exercise again. I’m not allowed to lift heavy weights yet (damn it), but I have been allowed to do cardio work (hockey is cardio isn’t it?) and light weights. I went for a run last night and I did OK till about 8 minutes in. After that I had to take several breaks to let my coordination get back. I’m going to attempt the gym today and use the small dumb bells that are normally reserved for women. Man I’m going to get ripped doing that.

After I posted my blog last night, I took a turn for the worse. My headaches intensified to the point I was ready to do the 3m dash to the bathroom at any second. Good thing I didn’t have to as I probably would’ve knocked myself out on a door frame or something else. My headache was so intense that I wanted to perform trephination on myself to try and alleviate the pressure in my head. Luckily the painkillers finally started to work and I was able to get some sleep. I did sleep rather well, to the point that I was woken up only at 13:00 when a friendly Jehovah’s witness rang our doorbell.

I was also overcome with a feeling of sadness and I wanted to ball my eyes out last night. I have no idea where it all came from but my mood changed rather drastically and I wallowed most the night in a mix of intense headaches and self pity. I was a seriously sensitive dude last night Otherwise, today I have been feeling relatively fine. My head is clearer than it has been for days now and I don’t feel as if I was living in a cloud. However, I’m still not 100%. I don’t think I could last a full gym work out or a jog.

There are still issues I’m trying to work through. One thing I have noticed the past week is that I don’t really feel like myself. Where I am starting to feel better, I feel as if there’s a part of me that is missing. I guess the problem with concussions is that they are like breaking a vase. You can try and put it all back together, but depending how bad you broke it, you’ll never be able to fit all the pieces back together. And I guess the symptoms and the emotions are as unique as the person who suffers it.

However, this has been the best day so far, but that’s not to say that I’m OK. I hope from now on I’ll be able to make significant progress day by day. My dreams are still weird and for the past few nights they have had a mexican theme to them. Go figure that out.

I’m also seeing the doctor again on Monday, so hopefully I’ll get some more guidance into where I go from here. Tell you one thing though, once I get the all clear from the doctors, the first thing I’m going to do is have an ice cold beer.

Also, good luck to my teammates this weekend. I won’t be able to join them on the ice, but hopefully I can muster enough focus to make the trip and watch them play.

I’ve recently really gotten into Twitter. I’ve seen many interesting hockey conversations and it has been one of the first places where I’ve seen on trades. However, I saw a few tweets about a writer for The Hockey News tweet about a few concussions and players’ experiences. I posted my own accounts of concussions by confessing that during my 29 years, I’ve sustained 4 of them.  Admittedly only 2 of these have been in hockey situation and two in non-related matters. I should’ve probably clarified that in my tweets. And despite popular belief, none of the hockey ones have been sustained whilst falling off the bench.

One thing that isn’t really discussed at lenght is how a player feels, so I’m trying to give accounts of my feelings after a concussion. By far the worst concussion I’ve had was when I was in middle school on 8th grade. I was playing shinny at a school PE lesson and back in those days, helmets were an unknown quantity and the only protection you had for your noggin was a beanie hat.  As you might guess it was non checking.

What happened was a classic rookie mistake. I broke out of the d-zone and was ahead of the play and was waiting for a pass and then… BAM! I collided with another guy and our heads hit. We were both carrying quite a bit of speed at this and I can’t remember if I hit my head on the ice when I fell down. All I remember was that the impact was to the left temple as I was looking back. From then everything was really hazy. I was taken to the school nurse who called an ambulance for me and I was taken to the hospital for observation.

After I got back to school, I found it really difficult to concentrate. To be fair I was never a straight A student and my mind was always on something else than the lesson at hand, but this time it was different. It wasn’t like I was gazing out of the window or day dreaming. I felt like I wasn’t really present, and that I was like an empty shell. I found that different smells really got to me and I could not put up with Design tech at all. I was really iritable and even slightest of things set me off. To the point that I threw a pair of scissors at my brother’s friend because of something insignificant he did. Luckily my aim is as good as it is now and I missed. I kept snapping at small things, like TV adverts. I felt incredibly frustrated and for a while things like trading cards that I was really into did not interest me at all.

My mom still has the chopping board that I built in DT and it’s built sort of wrong. The curves of the wood should match but in mine they are all over the place, because I knew how it was supposed to be assembled, but I put it together thinking that I had done it right. After I got it back at the end of term (fully recovered by now) I saw that mine was all wrong compared to everyone elses’ symmetrical rather aesthetically pleasing chopping boards. I’ll never forget how the smell of glue and how that made me feel during my first lesson back.

As a result of the incident, the school made it compulsory to wear a helmet during hockey at PE. They even invested in a bunch of Bauer helmets. I guess something good came out of it.

Before that I had sustained a minor concussion playing king of the hill (during winter) with friends and lost my footing on the hill and fell and hit my head on a bloc of ice. Back then I only suffered from a slight head-ache and discomfort and I was so young that I can’t properly remember how that felt exactly or what the effects were.

The last two concussions happened during my time in Holland. I got a concussion when I was breaking down on the wing and I had just dumped the puck into the zone and I was in what is now referred to as a vulnerable position. I got hit and as far as I can remember the hit was clean, it was just that I flew into the boards with the back of my head first. You know in the cartoons like Tom & Jerry when one of the characters gets hit in the head and they see birds or stars? Well, I definitely saw stars after that.

This happened right in front of our bench, so at least I had a short trip to get off the ice. I managed to get off on my own wits, but the minute I sat down, I knew something wasn’t right. I slumped to the changing room and one of the players’ mothers who was a nurse came in and checked on me. As I laid on the massage bench, one of the most excruciating things was when she tested how I reacted to light. Whenever I saw the light for the first time it felt terrible.

I changed back to my clothes I saw that my helmet had paint off the boards on it (the rink had wooden boards). My dad drove me to the emergency room and I was faced with yet another wait in the emergency room, me wanting to do nothing else except sleep, not that I was tired, I felt really drowsy, as if someone had given me a sedative. The doctors’ told me that I had a concussion. I have no idea whether it was minor or severe. Again I had similar symptoms, except I was really tired. To the point that I would sleep every chance I had. If it was a lunch break or a break, I would find a place where I could doze off. Again I felt iritable, more than your usual teen angst  and I found it difficult to concentrate again. I was working by this time, so I was as good as a dead shell at work. I was able to function, but I had a hard time focus on the tasks at hand, so I might as well not have been there. What didn’t help was that I was working a call centre job.

You know the one ‘mistake’ I made? I didn’t ask the doctor how long I should stay out of hockey. If I didn’t ask or the doctor didn’t say about sitting out, I was good to go in my books. Despite the headache, I went back the following week, but it didn’t feel right. I wasn’t going to the corners and I felt scared on the ice, but I wanted to persevere with it. But looking back on it, what would the doctor have said? Back then there was a lot of confusion about concussions and its effects on sports and so on. I remember the most common advice was that get back when you feel comfortable.

It wasn’t really like I was put through a test or anything to see what stage my symptoms and recovery were at.

Once I started to feel better and I was out with friends, I got head butted in a bar and I was down for the count again. That was the second consecutive concussion I had sustained, it was in 2002. And I have not have had one since.

The trouble is that concussions were really difficult to deal with and when the levels you play at you don’t really have a team doctor and back then you relied on the your own feelings. If you were able to skate, you were able to play, or at least that is how I felt. When I say that, I’m not saying that my team was negligent in letting me play. They asked me if I was good to go and I said yes, I’m good to go. The right thing to do would have been to sit out for a while, but when you love doing something, you don’t want to stay away from it.

What about the long term consequences? Maybe the hits to the noggin are a reason why I am really prone to depression, often severe and hellish bouts of it. It is really difficult to say what the long term consequences are, but I guess it is safe to say that I will not have a career in astro physics. Despite having a relatively high count in concussions I still play and I feel normal most the time. Whether I get another one remains to be seen, but for the past 8-9 years I’ve felt good.

The real shit thing about concussions is that to the outside you seem fine. It’s not like you’re holding your wrist or limping because you’ve got a bummed leg. You tend to get a lot of stick from teammates for it, because they don’t know what your head feels like and to the outside you seem fine. One of my teammates sustained a concussion not too long ago and he is already playing. He says he is fine, but every time he gets hit, I’m worried about him, because I know what the consequences are, but like said. It’s not like we have tests to check. Our coach is really good at really pressing guys about their injuries and making sure we don’t play if we are trying to push through something.

So what would my advice to kids or players with concussions be? Rest it and do something I have never done: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! As long as you feel the effects of it, stay off things for as long as it takes. I know it’s hell but, you will not be helping your team and you wont do yourself favours in the long run. I know hockey is supposed to be a tough man’s game but when it comes to head injuries, the manly thing to do is to sit out till you feel 100%.

In that breath I wish all the players in the NHL and elsewhere suffering with concussions a quick and steady recovery.

I can’t come up with an appropriate ending of my own to this post, so I’ll quote the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons: Concussions are the WORST…. INJURIES…EVER…

So, I’ve finally found out what is wrong with my knee, after three long and increasingly painful years.

I met today with Dr. Adrian Wilson from the Hampshire Clinic, who I must say is one of the nicest Orthopedic specialists I’ve met. If I could’ve had my choice of a doctor, I’d chosen the Finnish chap, whose name escapes me, but given that he lost his licence due to a stroke I’ll go with the best option, which is Dr. Wilson. What he said about my previous diagnosis’ was that the pain definitely was not in my head and that he commended my toughness on competing and playing through what has been intense pain.

So after an hours consultation and tests, he was able to tell me that everything wasn’t right with my knee and that I more than likely have two things wrong. 1) I have torn the meniscus, which is quite regular in hockey or 2) when I first injured the leg, I got a microfracture in the bone, which did not show up on the X-rays and due to my rigorous training, I have never replaced the tissue on top of the bone.

I’m going to have an MRI in a few weeks to confirm the diagnosis and then go under the knife for an arthoscopy.

So how do I feel about this? Where I had anticipated that it would be something like this and I prepared myself mentally for the diagnosis, I still find myself depressed about it. Meniscal injuries are not career ending, but I guess the main thing that hacks me off is that I’ve waited to play in the cup for a long time and now part of, what was hopefully going to be a show case year, will be going to waste. Well not to waste but by eating popcorn in the press box. OK so I’m going to have some time off, but atleast I know what has been wrong.

However, when I weigh up the pros and cons, post operation I am hopefully able to return to an even better level of play as I have no hindrance with the knee.

Also another big pro is that I have plenty of time to recover and recouperate for potential try outs. I have been looking at teams that I would like to play for and at the moment Isle of Wight, Basingstoke, Bracknell, Bristol and Swindon are on the top of my list.

So there we have it. Three years of waiting and an hours consultation, I know what is bugging me. Just further proof that Money talks and Bullshit walks.

Weirdly I got complemented again on my muscle tone and bulk in my legs. Are all these doctors hitting on me?

It’s been another difficult week. I’ve had a spat of bad luck with things, mainly relating to my health. As it is well documented on my Twitter account and on this blog, I’ve got problems with my knee that I want to sort out and I’ll have an appointment for that on Tuesday, so expect another update then, latest.

So what went wrong this time? Apart from the knee, I had an allergic reaction to something Thursday-Friday night. I woke up with a severely swollen lip and from there, it quickly spread to my extremeties, mainly my right arm. Where I’d normally welcome the extra bulk, the swelling of my hand really had me worried. I don’t know what caused the reaction, but I reckon that it was a blister plaster that I wore on my right hand. I had been walking on crutches and had to carry my laptop home from work which caused my hand to rub on the crutches causing a blister.

So Friday, I spent catatonic, only spending a handful of hours awake. My wife said that it is what normally happens with an allergic reaction. Where I’m fine now, I feel extremely tired.

Additionally, I’ve been following the playoffs in the UK and mainly Isle of Wight. I had a tryout with the team arranged, but I had to cancel it due to being injured at the time. Now they are in the playoffs and I can’t help but think, ‘what if?’

I am increasingly worried, that with all the problems I have faced, I can’t work toward the goals I’ve set and outlined here. I am increasingly overcome with feelings of not being good enough, though looking through the rosters of the teams, I’ve played against some of the guys there and know that I’m more than capable of playing with them.

But my first priority is to get myself healthy. I have till September to get in shape so I have the time. I just have to hope that I can stay going till then.