Sport is my safe place.
My first anxiety attack was like nothing I had ever experienced. In a room full of potential clients pitching a $50K deal.
I remember my heart racing, the room was becoming very hazy, I was sweating profusely and worst of all... I had no words. My brain was saying things, but the words just wouldn't come out.
The meeting lasted an excruciating 20mins.. of which I spent trying to firstly, breathe then figure out what I was trying to say and answer questions.
Finally, it was over and went to the elevator and got into my car and burst into tears. I had no idea what it was.. but it wasn't good.
I quit my job and went back to a job I knew well, and was good at. But, it didn't help... the attacks became more frequent, and I fell into a dark place.
I finally saw my GP and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I was prescribed medication and saw a counsellor.
Why am I telling this story? Because sport helps me to manage mental health. And by sharing my story I hope it helps someone else.
I believe that sport is a change agent that brings people together, creating a community and a special kind of family.
For 8 hours a week training and playing gridiron, and whenever I am on a skateboard, I am in a safe place away from the world and that time is mine. I am in complete control of my surroundings and I feel at ease knowing my coaches are preparing me for my next battle be it on the field or off it.
Playing sport builds mental toughness and resilience, and these two traits are so important in the world today. It has given me back the confidence I felt before the attacks started. Training and mastering my skills and techniques and feeling empowered when I make a tackle, throw a pass or land a new trick. I figure, if I can do that, then what else am I capable of?
Playing sport has given me back so much more than I have given it, and coaching for me is a way to give back. I get to make the kids I coach feel just as amazing as I feel when I'm playing.
Providing them with a safe space where they can push themselves, to try a new trick or a new move, discover the talent of the kids who aren't a natural athlete... and experience the intensity of the final moments of a game with 10 seconds on the clock, the score is tied and one last play for the win.
Hopefully, I convince a few more girls to keep playing sport. It's hard for kids today in the world and we need to do what we can to help build their resilience and mental toughness - god knows they will need it.
I don't hide my anxiety from anyone, its part of me and my story - and on RU OK Day it is a great time to share.