The big ‘D’ word. I’m not talking about feeling a bit low or sad but full-blown feeling like crap and wondering if it’s all worth it. Even when life around you is exceptionally good, depression can still raise its ugly head and burn your brain like a frazzled piece of plastic that has landed in hot ash. It can come from anywhere and unexpectedly and doesn’t necessarily happen quickly, but builds up over a period of time which, in turn, makes it harder to realise it’s actually happening.
With the increase of social awareness on mental health, we are, as a society, are starting to appreciate that it’s ok to feel low and we can get out of it. We are under new pressures, new demands with life, work, family and being the perfect someone in the perfect world that social media portrays. We are seeing an increase of teenagers feeling depressed and even suicidal! Why? If only we can get through to them that social media, tv and caring what anyone else thinks is just an unnecessary worry and the only person that really matters is themselves. We are a society that loves to degrade and put people down for being themselves. We need more uplifting, motivated and inspirational role models.
We have seen a rise of men becoming depressed and again we are having to push to say…it’s ok to talk, to communicate and to say…” actually I’m struggling”.
The mental health organisation says that “Depression is a common mental disorder that causes people to experience depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration. Depression is different from feeling down or sad.”
Events from broken down relationships, stressful work situations, money worries, family breakdowns or any other situation that takes you to breaking point can heavily affect you and those around you. Many of us can break through those dark clouds and, although we may struggle for a short period of time, we have the tools to lift ourselves and refocus on our personal achievements, be able to make the changes necessary.
But what if we can’t, what can we do? In my own opinion, the first thing is to communicate. It’s hard and it’s got to be to someone that you feel comfortable to talk to. Establish what it is that has caused you to feel such a way and, if needed, go and seek medical and professional help.
What can you do to help you lift from the depths of depression? How can you ensure you find yourself again? I have witnessed close family suffering with depression and the last thing they wanted to do was socialise and surround themselves with people.
As a Personal Trainer, I also encounter clients who suffer with anxiety issues and have depression. I have been amazed on how many people from various backgrounds are on some kind of medication for mental health. What I have found though is how a person can change with regular exercise sessions. Exercise releases endorphins which makes you feel happy in yourself. It energises, helps with sleep, weight loss, eating patterns and gives a purpose. It can become a social scene, introducing you to new friends and fall in with a good crowd and in turn, they become a motivational support, building you up to increase your confidence and self-esteem.
To find this, you don’t necessarily have to join a commercial gym. There are many smaller places that offer fab classes or small group training. Some trainers offer sessions outside or in smaller community-based centres or another option is to join a sports club.
I’ve played competitive sport for 30 years and apart from loving it, the main reason was the team, the club, the family feel of inclusion and there was always someone there for you. The team spirit, the laughter and fun. The bond formed is like nothing else, friends for life and unlimited support. Team sports gives a focus and a purpose which can last a lifetime.
Gemma Walker is a 35-year old mum of a gorgeous little boy and wife to her husband Baz. Before her son was born, Gemma suffered a miscarriage. When her son was born, they discovered he had severe epilepsy and a chronic heart condition. In April 2017, Gemma had a miscarriage which created a stressful environment at home and she blamed herself for this. The love and dedication for her little boy was evident even though life for him was tough but after the miscarriage, it sent a wave of guilt and sadness resulting in depression for her and placed a strain on her marriage.
Last September she joined a brand-new Ladies Rugby team at Gillingham Anchorians in Medway, Kent. She had never been involved with team sports let alone rugby but after a friend had mentioned it, she went along to the training sessions.
I caught up with Gemma and asked her about her depression and her new found love of rugby.
MY: Thank you for speaking about this particular delicate subject. Can you tell me what happened last year?
GW: Looking back, after our first miscarriage then having Jake, things had been particularly hard for us both through the initial loss then dealing with Jakes’ illness; but he is an amazing, funny and intelligent little boy and he brings much happiness. Last April 2017, I suffered another miscarriage 11 weeks in to the pregnancy. I think at that time, because of what had happened before, it really affected me as I felt a huge sense of guilt as if my body was to blame for the loss. This in turn put a strain on my marriage and as a result I went on antidepressants for depression.
MY: Did you seek any professional help?
GW: My husband and I both went for professional counselling which helped us as we began talking again and were able to express how we felt. The antidepressants helped to control my feelings and cleared my head. I didn’t want to be using medication for long but knew it would help in the short term.
MY: Were you exercising or have any other outlet?
GW: I did have a gym membership, but motivation was low and I had nothing to really train for, so no real goals were set which didn’t help as I had no reason to go. I felt over weight and tired all the time.
MY: I know that you are now part of a rugby club. How did that come about?
GW: A friend of mine told me about it. She had seen an advert on social media, she mentioned that she was going to try it out and knew the club as her husband plays there.
MY: Had you played rugby before?
GW: Absolutely not. Had only seen a little on TV. I knew nothing about the rules, had no idea how to play but thought I would give it a go. I liked the idea of trying something different.
MY: So, you have now been going since September 2017. What has kept you going? How have you found the training?
GW: I love it! It has given me so much more than I expected. The training is fun. All the girls were brand new to the sport so we all learned the skills and techniques together. The coaches were great and patient but most important – it was fun! We started just by catching and throwing, learning the basics. We played Touch Rugby for a while and slowly learnt how to tackle properly. Everyone that attends have different backgrounds and are different ages and fitness ability but we quickly became a team and, ultimately, I made new friends.
MY: How has it helped with your own well-being?
GW: After everything that had happened it was like a release. It gave me a new focus and was something for me. It helped release tension and made me feel energised. My motivation to visit the gym increased because I wanted to become fitter for the training sessions and I was going home happy. The team created a ‘Whatsapp’ group so we could keep in contact and that has helped us become a closer knit group. I’ve lost over a stone in weight and I feel so much better in myself, I’m less angry and have a new purpose with a fab new set of friends. I’ve come off the medication too which I’m really pleased about.
We will be playing games soon and to be part of team in a sports capacity is something I’ve never experienced before. A sense of belonging and the encouragement and support from girls that I’ve only known for 5 months, is quite empowering.
MY: What type of training do you do at the gym?
GW: I try to mix things up during the week and do HIIT (High Intensity Training) cardio sessions – interval sessions using cardio kit that’s available like a rower or treadmill. I also lift as strength training is very important for rugby. I do mainly big lifts such as deadlifts, squats, bench press and bent over rows. I love lifting and is one of the reasons my body shape has changed. I feel stronger and fitter for a sport I am starting to love.
MY: How does your family feel about you starting up a sport, especially rugby?
GW: They have been really supportive and can see the positive impact it has created. I know they are looking forward to supporting me and the other girls in our first tournament which is coming up shortly. We are still very much a novice side but I’ve found a sport that I love and enjoy and love being with the girls who make me laugh so much. I would recommend it to anyone that’s feeling a bit lost and needs something a bit different to focus on. It has certainly helped me a lot and will continue for as long as I can.
Gemma attends a new Ladies Rugby Team at Gillingham Anchorians Sports Club in Medway, Kent. If you would like to go along then training is every Tuesday at 6pm. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for contact details for the club.
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