This opinion piece project allowed me to express a personal side of who I am and relate it to something else.
In April of 2013, I left my small town in Maine during school vacation week and headed to the big city. Boston. For an entire week, several tourist activities, college trips and sporting events in the itinerary. I was a happy-go-lucky junior in high school. Completely oblivious to what life was and lacking any real-world experience. The events that occurred left me feeling lost. It was sports that helped me get out of it.
On Monday, April 15 the happy-go-lucky teenager gained an important perspective. Two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I was two miles away from the finish line eating lunch. The conversation my parents had that morning will always ring in my head. “Should we go to the finish line? I have never been,” said my mom. “I don’t really want to. I don’t want to deal with the crowds,” said my dad. We could have been there. I was stuck between glad I was not there and angry anyone would do this.
We decided to stay for the week as originally planned. That night we were going to a Bruins hockey game. In the taxi, we got word the game was canceled. Getting out of the taxi, I saw how the city was in a panic. Nothing made sense.
Two days later we were able to go to a Bruins game. It was the first event in the city since the bombings. I don’t think I will ever have the image of the nearly 18,000 people singing the national anthem in unison removed from my brain. For those affected, I knew what this moment meant. For me, it helped me grasp the reality. Finally, this situation and my life made sense.
Depression is a real problem. In today’s world, so many things are done to help cope with depression. An Associated Press report highlights the story of 65-year-old man Joie Henney who uses an emotional support alligator to help deal with depression. The alligator got approval from Henney’s doctor to be labeled as an emotional support animal and helped him stay off medication. “Henney frequently takes Wally out for meet-and-greets at places like senior centers and minor-league baseball games,” said the AP report.
Florida man Ryan Boylan says he can not live without his emotional support squirrel called Brutis that he rescued after Hurricane Matthew, according to NBC Miami. “Ever since then I mean, oh my God, I can’t imagine not being around her,” Boylan said.
According to Anxiety Depression Association of America, 18.1 percent of the 18 and older population in America are affected by anxiety disorders. Only 36.9 percent of those people receive treatment.
Anxiety and depression exist in some forms in such a larger percent of the population that never get classified as disorders. You need something to help when it feels like nothing can. Something for your mind to escape to. Maybe it is a vicious reptile or a small mammal. Or maybe it is something else.
Fast forward to February 2017. I was a junior in college now. I was falling fast for my girlfriend. Until I got a text on Friday. “I’m not sure I can be in a relationship right now.” I asked to talk and got one text back. No response after that. Nothing. I was unsure of the status until Sunday when the relationship was gone on Facebook.
That day also happened to be the day my favorite football team, the New England Patriots, erased a 28-3 deficit to win the Super Bowl. The break up was still hard on me, but for those three hours it was an afterthought.
Just like in 2013, sports helped me make sense of what was happening. It calmed me down. It allowed me to take a break and focus on bigger things.
About two weeks ago it happened again. Graduate school, a job, sickness and a co-op search were getting the best of me. Then the Patriots beat the Chiefs to go to the Super Bowl. I was reminded that this was worth it. That this struggle is to better myself. I got a lot done the next day.
Removing anxiety and depression is an ultimate societal goal. But everyone is going to have their day. Everyone needs their go-to helping mechanism. I know that I can count on sports.