“Man up, stop being such a wimp”. A phrase I heard a lot when even I wasn’t sure what was going on or what the hell was wrong with me. I questioned myself a lot during those months that then turned to years. I’d think, “Why on earth do I feel so down?”
It led me down some extremely dark paths, I struggled to cope with people judging me because I was a bit different. All I was interested in was football and Newcastle United. There wasn’t much else that I really connected with.
There were days where I would struggle to even get out of bed, I just didn’t want to be in the same room as another person. Except for one day that is, I still can’t explain why it was different but attending Newcastle United games was a welcome distraction for me. St. James’ Park was and still is my refuge. A shelter from all the hate and anxiety, together as one with one hope - Three points.
Daily life just continued to run me down and batter me. Being with 52,000 others, all in the moment was the perfect medicine. Doctors can give you all the fancy pills they think you need, sometimes all you need is a distraction and mine was Newcastle United.
There are times where I know people just don’t understand me, however, go to any local bar in town and start talking about Newcastle United and I feel at home, comfortable and not feeling anxious or down, just enjoying the moment.
There will be a lot of people in the same position and there has been a stigma regarding mental health. That has slowly started to change over the last few years but there are still a huge number of people, too scared to speak out because they are fearful of the consequences and what people might think.
I’ve travelled up and down the country for years to watch Newcastle United. I long for a match-day to come around because I know that is where I feel I’m accepted. There’s no judgement. It makes a huge difference to my mood and my week in general. Football supporters often get a bad reputation, it is those very people that have helped me through so much. They are the people who treat me with kindness, respect and aren’t full of judgement.
Whether it’s celebrating a winning goal, singing my heart out or screaming at a bad challenge or decision - It’s all a release, a release of the daily struggles and stresses that great me during the week. I still feel like a kid at Christmas when a match-day comes because it’s where I belong.
Walking through the doors of the Strawberry before every home game, meeting familiar and friendly faces is always a welcome sight. The pre-match pints with the lads, laughing and joking about the away day experience the previous week. Everything that makes up a match-day adds up to a perfect day. Win, lose or draw I’ll always cherish them because each match-day has, in it’s own way made me a lot happier.
It really is “Ok not to be ok” but there’s still a long way to go before people start to feel comfortable sharing their feelings.