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I must make football fit into my routine for the sake of my mental health.

I always wanted to be active, watching my boys play football, rugby or participating in martial arts. I always felt that I could give it a go.  Then I would remind myself that I’m over 30, I’m overweight, still carrying the “baby weight”, even though the boys were at school now and enjoying after school activities, it was still an excuse I continued to use.

My boys became members of a local martial art club, the club was very family orientated and would always encourage parents to take part in new katas with the children.  I decided to give it a go and join the club, at first, I loved it, everyone was so friendly and helpful. The boys eventually found their niche and got into football. I would stand on the side-line, cheering at the top of my lungs, hoping that the ball would roll in my direction so that I could just kick it back.

I stood watching, thinking to myself I think I’d like to play football.

Then my best friend told me that she had joined a football club called Crawley Old Girls and I thought to myself, you know what, maybe I can do it.  She loved it, she said the people were friendly, no one judged you, it was a great way to get fit too.  She would ask me week in, week out, you going to come with me tonight, but I just couldn’t do it.  The thought of going to a crowded place with lots of new people frightened the life out of me, there was no way I could do it.

One evening they held a fundraising event for the club, it was for everyone, she asked me and my husband if we wanted to go along. Yeah, why not I thought.  He’ll be with me, he’ll be there, it’s not like I’ll be running or doing anything to make myself look silly so off we went. I have to say the evening was one of the best times I’d had in a long time, everybody was so friendly, I even recognised a few faces.  The following week my friend asked me if I wanted to go football with her, she promised that she would be with me by my side and that I would be fine, so I agreed.  The minute I walked onto the pitch the women were so welcoming, I even got labelled as a BFF.

Everything was going great, I was starting to feel more confident, my anxiety was easing, I had low days, but I’d drag myself to football and everything was forgotten.

It was going so well until COVID struck and we were in lockdown. Eventually the lockdown eased, and we were able to play jumpers for goalposts football, 6 women, on a field, just to be able to continue what we loved doing. I went a couple of times but then the anxiety kicked in. People, COVID, it was all too much. The thought of being near anyone scared me, I could never see myself going back to football. Restrictions continued to lift and we were slowly being able to get back to playing how we were used to, apart from taking temperatures, checking in, our football was back. Sadly, it wasn’t that easy for me, my anxiety had gone through the roof, I didn’t want to go out, getting to work was even a battle. I had never spoken properly about my anxiety and depression, I was always the joker, laughing and being silly on the pitch. The number of times I would dress into my kit, get in the car drive around the roundabout twice before eventually driving home again.

Sadly, my friend was injured so she was no longer to play, I no longer had my safety net, the one person that knew how anxious I was and how I hid behind my laughing.  I knew that I had to do something if I ever wanted to get playing again. Eventually I opened up to a couple of the women at football, I explained how I was feeling and how scared I was.  They were amazing, they asked if there was anything they could do, they became my nets. With their help I was able to get back on the pitch and start playing again, it hasn’t been easy, I still have my “wobbles” but I go, I get there. The timing has been perfect, as a woman approaching that “time”, the dreaded menopause I couldn’t imagine discussing, laughing and joking about the next chapter of my ever changing self with.  If I can do it, anyone can.

I must make football fit into my routine for the sake of my mental health.

It’s not easy, two teenage boys, (one with additional needs) a husband that often works away, and working full-time myself but I have begun to believe that we have to make time for ourselves.