Posts Tagged ‘disc golf

18
May
15

how throwing a plastic disc through the air is changing my life

Featured imageSince the utter failure of my attempt at seeking help for mental health issues over the past two decades, I had resigned myself to a life of despair, and didn’t care much whether I lived or not. Due to a latent childhood trauma I have been unsuccessfully dealing with a diagnosis of “Bipolar 1, Severe with psychotic features and social phobia”, a mouthful, I know. Having healthy relationships and feeling accepted have both felt out of my reach for as long as I can remember, but that has been changing recently. I have now been free of suicidal impulses for over a month, where it used to be a day-long struggle, every day, and I am starting to gain a positive sense of self that I never believed possible before.

Some people will not be shocked to find out what is helping, as I have come to learn that what is working for me has worked for others with similar stories, but we don’t talk about it because of the stigma surrounding mental health issues such as addiction, escapism, social anxiety and the many others that can plague someone for life. I have been in and out of urgent care, psych wards, and dealt with county crisis workers, have seen many psychiatrists and psychologists but no treatment plan developed seemed to do anything for me. I tried counseling, meditation, and prescriptions… I self medicated with alcohol… but always I came back to a bleak feeling of hopelessness. However, what was a glint of hope a few months ago is slowly turning into a viable path forward, one that is actually starting to get at the root of my problems and guide me forward, and that path, oddly enough, is throwing a plastic disc through the air.

Last fall, at the bequest of some friends who I thought were too arty/intellectual for sports, I started playing a sport called disc golf(it’s golf but you throw a disc instead of clubbing a ball), and three major aspects of the game have somehow started to re-orient my psyche.

Firstly, the frequent communing with nature. This is something my life was missing. Before I would go on walks or bike rides, and during the walk or ride I would feel better, but instantly upon returning home my general anxiety would return. I exercise, always have, so I know that exercise itself is not a treatment. With disc golf it’s different. Rather than passing through or over nature on a walk, disc golf causes me to interact with it. Over the course of a season you see the changes in foliage, the swelling and receding of ponds, and the natural processes of life and death present in the woods. You breathe the dense forest air and in the fields bask in sun(or rain or snow!). Being that connected with nature has been something I have missed since living in the mountains and deserts of Mexico.

Second, social interactions are naturally focused and the community surrounding the sport are a more accepting group than I am used to. This is a major aid for someone with my level of social anxiety(and believe me it’s high!) because it takes the focus off of me so that instead of feeling as though I am standing helpless in front of some terrifying monster waiting to judge everything I do and say, I feel I am standing alongside friends all enjoying the simple yet profound pleasures life can bring. I still get highly self-conscious, and my performance suffers because of it, but the overall effect is that the course and the game give me a buffer zone that in and of itself provides reason for interaction and conversation, two things I will avoid like the plague if given the chance.

The third, and likely most important aspect is the… what I will call “zen” of the sport. Performing well requires being in touch with the whole of your body and also your surrounding environment, which is a state that modern Americans very rarely achieve anymore given the 21st century ability to sit on one’s ass all day and still feel as though something was accomplished. In order to deliver that disc in your hand out into the woods or over the field you must surrender not only to nature but to yourself as well, and it’s a very internal, primal part of the self that is being engaged in this moment. If you start doubting your body’s natural conviction you will know it right away. You can see it in the face of every thrower the second they release the disc, you can tell as you let go, without even looking at the disc, if you achieved the line and flight you envisioned, because your mind is thoughtless when you get it right, but riddles with dissonance when you have it wrong. And it has taught me not only how to be present inside and around myself, it has also taught me to let go, because you cannot control every gust of wind or downhill roll, these things happen and you must deal with them gracefully.

The practice at shutting off self-doubt is, I feel, the key factor in what I hope to be my slow yet final healing process within myself. I have even noticed my personal relationships improve from these experiences, and have found that a new voice has begun to emanate from me, that a new love of being and inner peace–acceptance of life and self–have started to crowd out the negativity and fear.

If you also struggle with social anxiety and depression I couldn’t recommend playing disc golf highly enough. It even sounds weird as I say it in my head because the activity itself seemed almost antithetical to my normal mode of being at first(that of a sad lonely depressed artist whom the world stands against), which to the chagrin of magic pill makers is maybe the very rub itself.