Roller Derby Stopped Saving Me, Pt. 1

Photo © Purple Turtle Photography

Ever since I joined roller derby, it has been the overwhelming focus of my life. Fuck everything else, I found this sport and these humans and I finally feel whole for the first time in my entire life. I have always wanted to go to every practice, play in every scrimmage and every game, and put in all of the work I could. My passion for roller derby was this huge fire consuming me.

Imagine my surprise years later, for the first time, when the fire inside me started to dim and flicker. I blamed the amount of changes in my life. I started a full time desk job, my best friend moved, we were suddenly playing D1 level roller derby even though we had only skated against D2 teams. Those were a few of the changes. I tried to fight back. I finally started therapy and medication for my anxiety and depression (something I should have done long ago). I joined Crossfit to start more difficult strength training. I wanted to feel like myself again. I wanted that passion back. It worked, for a little bit, but not forever. Unfortunately, those things weren’t a magical fix.

2017 was a rough year for me. Everything felt so bad, so heavy, all the time. It was not what I remembered. My mental state deteriorated. Practice was no longer something I looked forward to. It felt like a second job that I HAD to go to, so I wouldn’t let my team down. There was always the question of: Would it be better if I went to practice, or would I be a fucking mess there? A lot of the times I pushed through it and broke in front of the people who made me feel whole. I wanted to show, despite what it often looked like, that I belonged, that I was working, and that this was what I wanted.

One scrimmage night I took a high block at the start of the jam. While this usually makes me snap for a few moments and then rage jam (“I’m gonna take your points, your momma’s points, your grandma’s points! You will regret besmirching my face!”), it didn’t this time. I immediately started sobbing, took myself off of the track, geared down, and went and sat in the parking lot and cried for a long time. This little thing, this relatively normal thing that happens to me, started an avalanche of emotions. I was constantly swallowing my feelings and just pushing them down into the void, hoping they would go away. Then things like this would briefly open that void and I would momentarily explode.

I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to feel like this any more. I am giving every bit of myself and nothing good is happening. This is too much. Why am I here? I feel so alone.

That would be the filtered, gentle version of the things that regularly ran through my mind. I still took myself to practice, determined to finish the season. Nothing felt good or right. I either felt overwhelmingly sad or completely dead inside. Most of the time I aimed for dead inside. When I was dead inside I could still show up and go through the motions and give the appearance like I was functioning alright. I could get lead jammer when I was dead inside, I was slightly more fearless when I was dead inside, I didn’t have melt downs at practice when I was dead inside. Dead inside is never the long term answer, friends.

I think I want to quit. I think I’m going to quit.