September 12, 2013

The Doctor is In

What time is it folks? That's right, it's time for another P.S.A. courtesy of the fine ladies of FoCo Girls Gone Derby, and me, Mollytov Maguire. There are a lot of phrases that get thrown around in derby; vulgar, funny, and punny alike roll right off our tongues (see what I did there? Get it? ROLL??). Something like "shut up and skate" is fairly innocuous, but today I'd like to draw attention to "derby is my therapy."

While I love that so many skaters of the world have felt healed, helped, and included by roller derby and derby culture, I am a little worried about denizens of the derby-verse who need more than just skills, drills, and scrimmage to feel balanced. This week is suicide awareness week and I would like to reach out to those who can't just smile and hip-check their friends and loved ones into feeling better. This is an issue that is near and dear to me as I have lost many friends to suicide.

For many of my teenage years, it was a common thing. I went to more funerals than I rightfully should have. Friends and schoolmates dropped at around 1 per year for almost all of my teens and into my 20's. There were some who I was particularly close to and there are regrets that I will always have about "not seeing the signs" and whatnot. I loved those people and still do which is why I want to talk about when derby isn't the best therapy because THERAPY is. There ain't no shame in struggling folks.

I wonder if this idea that derby is on par with therapy undermines the people who do actually need help. These are our friends and lovers. They're our bothers and sisters in arms. They're people we'd take into our foxholes. I can speak from experience that when I've said "derby is my therapy" in the past, what I meant was "Gee, playing this sport with my friends sure is swell. I am very happy to be here right now!" and not "Derby has fixed something that was broken inside me. If you don't feel the same way, you obviously haven't accepted roller derby into your heart as your personal savior." It's the latter interpretation that concerns me. This is like telling an already depressed person that it's their fault because they're not doing it right, that they're not derby-ing right. When I have struggled with life's little "treasures" off the track, I have looked at the glee on the faces of my teammates with covetous hostility, wishing that I could rip the happy right off their faces and keep it for my own. "Why do they get to be happy about derby? Don't they know about all the shitty shit in my world right now? Bitches."

I read a post on reddit a few months back about a skater who was coming back from injury while struggling from depression, and the idea of socially re-assimilating into her league was stressing her out. She couldn't decide if depression had made her feel more isolated than she was, or if she was pushed away by the league because of her injury/depression. Well, that is the million dollar question isn't it? Is my issue real or am I imagining it? I couldn't presume to know which was true (both maybe?) in that skater's case but I do know the things that help me. Her post has haunted me sometimes and I wonder what happened with that skater. I hope that she found her place in the league again and has dug herself out of the darkness. I hope that she isn't looking at the women in her wall is suspicion. I hope that she is back on skates and chipping away at all the hard things day by day.

Depression is a real, serious thing and it happens. Even to derby folk. Sometimes derby is the best therapy, and sometimes it isn't. You, as an individual, have to be able to identify the difference. There are many ways to start getting better; you can talk to someone, you can take some anti-depressants, you can (preferably) do both, you can hug a friend, snuggle your cat, play... uh bad-mitten, or scores of other things that make you feel like you're not a shell of a person. For me, I'd rather get some extra sun on my skin, have a wild night with my girlfriends, or a cozy/restorative night in with Mr. Maguire but when my usual bag of tricks started failing in huge, epic disasters, it was time to find another way. And I did. And now I am OK. And you can be too. And use your community and resources to find out what is right for you. And then let's all get together and play some derby, K?

Derby Love,
Mollytov Maguire

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