My name is Lindsey Watson, although lots of people call me Habs, which is short for Haberbashery my roller derby name.
At the moment, I skate for Auld Reekie Roller Derby, a roller derby team in Edinburgh who are now signatories of Scotland’s Mental Health Charter for Physical Activity and Sport, meaning they are actively working with SAMH to improve mental health issues within our league.
Roller Derby is the reason I am here today - in a number of different ways.
I have struggled with my mental health for all of my adult life, from about the age of 15. The thing about mental health issues is that although I have only had 3 or 4 big flare ups triggered by circumstantial depression leading to clinical depression, it's always there, humming away in the back of your mind like the buzz of a fridge in a quiet room.
About 4 years ago, I found myself in the darkest place I had ever been. Circumstances in my life had lead me to feel hopeless for the future and the ‘what ifs’ wouldn’t get out of my head for long enough to concentrate on day to day living. I turned to drink in an attempt to quieten this down and ease the emotional pain I was feeling but it didn’t work. Then one night after leaving a bar, I was followed and sexually assaulted. After the attack which was thankfully interrupted, my brother asked me what would’ve happened if my friend who I had been phoning when I realised I was being followed hadn’t found me and I told him I didn’t care. I was at rock bottom.
Thankfully the look on my brother’s face was so heartbreaking that it prompted me to get help. I took the first step and went to see my doctor. I told him everything. How I was feeling, why I was feeling that way and that my only plan for the future was a suicidal one. Luckily he was amazing. Instead of just trying to fix my problems - which he wouldn’t have been able to do at that point, he asked if there were any times that I felt happy. I thought about it and then told him
- When I was dancing with my best friend Prawn (also a roller derby name) and
- When I am playing roller derby
So he told me I should make all the efforts to do that more. He explained that he was going to put me on medication that would both give me relief from the anxious thoughts going round and round and also help me hold on to the serotonin that I needed to produce myself.
This part was really important for me because as a very determined individual (not to be confused with stubborness!) I really like the idea that I would have control over my recovery. I would only get better if I worked at it. I just needed a little help to get there.
From then on I made sure I went to training 3 times a week, even if I was having a terrible day. Even if I couldn’t speak to anyone. I was there. I knew exercise was the one thing that would help me. My attendance was at 100% every week. I noticed that I started getting not only mentally stronger but also physically stronger. My team at the time - Glasgow Roller Derby, had qualified to play at playoffs in Florida - its part of a tournament that only the top 40 teams in the world get invited to. I really wanted to be on that team! But I suddenly realised that I was no longer doing this to make my friends and family less worried about me or to make myself feel better, I wanted to do this for me and my future. I future that 6 months before I couldn’t even imagine having.
I think the fact that roller derby is a team sport is really important. Even on days when my depression clouds my thoughts, I still pack up my kit and get to training because I don’t want to let other people down and I always end up feeling better for it afterwards. I can have my off days because there’s other members of my team that will pick up the slack at that time because they know I will do the same for them when they need it.
It's a really inclusive community of women and gender expansive people that has a place for everyone no matter their size, sexual orientation, race or identity and that’s a really powerful thing. Especially for young girls who are the first to give up on sport in their teenage years. Roller derby teaches you how strong and powerful your body can be and not what it can’t do or how it should look. That’s a pretty big deal right?
Roller Derby literally saved my life 4 years ago and I will be forever grateful for that as I am now standing here medication free and stronger than ever.
Oh and for anyone that’s interested I made the team and we smashed it ending the weekend at number 29 in the world!