Anxiety, Hockey, and Me

This is a short tale of my personal battle with anxiety, and how hockey has helped me cope. I’ve shared this elsewhere previously, but wanted a place to make it available to many.

EDIT: Link to original posting: http://puckalliance.com/2015/06/my-beacon-of-safety/

There’s a few things about me that are important to this story.

1. I’ve always LOVED hockey. I’ve never been particularly great at it, but I can keep up, and I’ve never stopped learning, even into my 30s.

2. I’ve always been uncomfortable in social situations. Now when I say uncomfortable, I don’t mean that I’d just often rather be somewhere else — I mean full on anxiety-attack just thinking about being in a new and large social settling.

My social anxiety is something I’ve always had (I struggle to say suffer with, because I know there are those out there who suffer much more than I) to deal with, and it’s something I’ve dealt with on my own for the most part. Before I was married, I hadn’t really discussed it with anyone, and for many years prior to that, I just considered myself a really *really* strong introvert.

Growing up, I would often avoid situations where I’d be around a lot of people I wasn’t comfortable with, or didn’t know. Going to a concert for example would cause me to freak out, become nauseous, panic. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends of get out — I certainly did both. I’m an intelligent, funny, relaxed guy in situations where I’m comfortable.

However, there were times I can remember, particularly in University, where I’d avoid going to a large party with friends because the thought of it would cause me to have an anxiety attack. Sometimes worse, I’d go, but find the only way I could feel comfortable would be to drink — A LOT. I knew it wasn’t healthy, and I knew there was something off about me, but as I said, I just chalked it up to being an introvert. To this day still, even with the support of my understanding wife, I am very uneasy about going to a large event, or meeting a big number of new people at a time.

All this said though, throughout my teenage years, and now into adulthood playing in several beer leagues throughout the year, the one place where I’ve always felt like I fit in is in a hockey dressing room or out on the ice with teammates.

Even walking into a new room for the first time on a new team and meeting a bunch of guys who would normally send me into an anxious panic in any other setting — I feel at home, safe, like I belong.

The world of hockey, especially beer leagues where we’re all playing for the love of hockey (and honestly, to get out of the house once in a while and do SOMETHING) is a very accepting environment full of camaraderie, support, and a mutual respect for each other, regardless of background or skill.

I guess I’m really sharing my story here just as an opportunity to not only open up about my personal fears and challenges in case others are in a similar situation, but also to say thank you to all those hockey players out there who make the dressing room and ice a safe place for everyone to come together and have a good time.

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