I know the title sounds depressing but now that I have your attention, let me explain:
As many of you know, the Women’s National Field Hockey team just spent the last two weeks in Santiago, Chile on a training tour, myself included. This tour was the start of a jam-packed 2018 year, which includes the Commonwealth Games in April. It was also our first opportunity to play some international games since August, and meet our new head coach. Needless to say, I was eager to start the year off with my best foot forward.
What I didn’t anticipate was straining my quad 30 mins into our first training session. My first thoughts were: This is a disaster; I haven’t been injured in 1.5 years and it happens now? What will the coaching staff think? Will I be able to participate at all this tour? The next few days were a flurry of negative thoughts, strengthening exercises and dates with our athletic therapist on the massage table. All the while I attempted to hide my disappointment.
Then I began to feel guilty. Grade 1 muscle strains often have a recovery period of 3-10 days. I’ve had injuries that kept me off the field for 5 months; and several of my teammates have spent over a year on the sidelines rehabbing their knee injuries. Why was I so upset? This wasn’t a disaster, just a minor hiccup. In other words: What was wrong with me? You need to gain some perspective girl!
And yes, I did need to gain some perspective, but I also needed to stop beating myself up for feeling emotion. I think from an early age we’re taught not to cry, but to smile instead – to be happy. We are forced to pretend for the sake of negating another person’s discomfort. Similarly, when we realize a goal, and are proud of ourselves, we often feel unable to share how we feel for fear of sounding arrogant.
So, when I began to feel sad in Chile, unable to change the circumstances, I tried to cover it up. I told myself that I was overreacting and that I didn’t need to bring attention to myself. It wasn’t until my assistant coach asked me how I was a few days later that I cried. I had so much built up anxiety that it was unbearable and I wasn’t sleeping. And even though I was angry at my tear ducts for betraying me, I finally felt free to move on.
What I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is this: it is normal to feel emotion and yet we rarely let ourselves acknowledge it. We have become experts at numbing everything, and I feel it’s contributing negatively to my mental health. How can I know if I need support if I don’t acknowledge how I feel? And how can others even begin to lend support if I pretend everything is ok?
(These thoughts all seem obvious when I write them down, but then how come I still do it?)