Player Stories: How I Tackle Mental Health

With an estimated one in four people likely to experience some form of mental health condition each year in the UK alone, this is a matter that Aberdeen Taexali takes very seriously.

This week, we’ve shone a light on how to identify and seek help when and if you need it, and now we’re pleased to share with you some personal player stories about their mental health journey.


Chapter I

My five tactics for mental health

I would say I’ve struggled with my mental health since my teenage years. I never had a lot of mutual interests with folk my age. Not always feeling like I fit in, makes me quiet and reclusive.

I used to fake phone calls telling me to come home to get out of parties, meaning I am now the undisputed champion of ‘Irish Goodbyes’.  I was the one who would walk folk home but never for the chance that things may progress further.

I was never “out” at school, and I still am not “out” to everyone I know. People say it does get easier the more people you tell and how it is better for you but, I’ve lived my life so long hiding who I am I don’t want to lose that part of me, so I find it easier to deflect the subject. On one hand I want to show and tell everyone but on the other I feel I’d lose what feels like a friend.

Moreover, my struggles end when I first arrive at training and begin again when I must drive home. For that brief time once a week I can be who I want to be then he has to go back into his box. Once or twice driving home I’ve had to stop as I can’t see through the tears due to the realisation that that is it for another week.

However, there are five tactics that I use to stay on top of and improve my mental health.

I use training and playing rugby to escape. I can be me. I can run after a ball like a fool in the hope I’ll catch one. It almost lets me escape the realms of reality of everyday life even if it’s for only 80 minutes. Nothing beats the feeling of breaking the line, winning a scrum, or tackling someone, never mind, scoring a try.

The same goes for piping, the sense of playing a tune and seeing people’s faces light up (hopefully) when they hear me, or the band play respectively is an amazing feeling. Or people moving out of the way when you’re marching up to the line for a competition gives me a lift which I can only feel at that moment. Moreover, the sense of completion when you have persevered with a tune and that first time you play it with the band gives me a sense of belonging, like I was more of a help than a hindrance when playing that tune.

Going for a daunder outside is the simplest way that I can improve my mental health. Luckily, I live near both a beach and a forest, so I can change where I walk. Both are desolate so I can put my terrible tunes on and either just plod along or think I’m Billy Elliot dancing between the trees and waves. I was always told “go outside and get some fresh air, then you’ll feel better” when I was young and I always thought it was to give my folks a break but now, older, and not any wiser, I’ve realised it was for both our benefits as the fresh air does wonders for me and it did give them a break!

The next way I can improve my mental health is trying to bring someone else joy. It can be as simple as cutting their grass or washing their car, both jobs I enjoy doing, but knowing it shall make a difference to someone else rather than just me, gives me a sense of belonging without the need of a team around me. By doing jobs like these during lockdown allowed me to focus on something else when I wasn’t working.  It amazing how many times you can wash a car during a week off work!

The final tactic I have, is writing a diary. Well not a diary as such, more a book of my thoughts and feelings. I prefer to write it all down onto paper as I can’t express myself to anyone without having the fear of upsetting them. Thankfully, you can’t offend paper. After I have written what I’ve wanted to say, there is a sense of relief that I’ve at least let the paper know how I’m feeling. Once my diary year is over, I then read all what I’ve written, to prove to myself just how much better life is, then burn it, never to be read again.

Mental health has impacted my life, but fortunately I’ve developed these ways to better manage it. On the outside I can be only described as a ruckus but, on the inside I’m a quiet person who likes just sauntering through life, trying to make other people happy.