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Depression and Anxiety – Sports and Group Therapy are my Drugs of Choice (by Joe Guz)

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Depression and Anxiety - Sports and Group Therapy are my Drugs of Choice

Ten years ago I was in a downward spiral. I just finished up my five year enlistment in the United States Air Force. I was trying to transition into being a civilian and I soon realized how different military life was.

I struggled with my self-worth. I went from being in charge of all combat flying missions to working a mundane job. I lost all of my self-worth. I constantly felt that I reached my peak. I would never find another job as important and exciting. I was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety but I didn’t believe it. I never took my prescribed medication. I assumed I was just having a tough time transitioning to my new life and I would snap out of it. I was wrong!

I started looking for anything to give me that rush I had in the military. I started spending money more recklessly than MC Hammer. I would buy new cars and boats, expecting these items to get me out of my funk. I would get the initial rush, but it would soon subside and I would fall deeper in my depression. I would stay awake all night with negative thoughts racing through my mind. That led me to drinking a 12 pack every night just so I could get to sleep.

I started to realize that my social anxiety and depression was more serious than I thought. I started isolating myself and I trained my mind to only feel comfortable at home. I would go to work and come home. The only way I would leave the house is if I was going to a bar. And if I was going to a bar, I would have to be drunk before I even got there. It was my confidence in a bottle. For a short time I would feel like my old self. But that feeling would only last as long as my buzz would last. I realized I needed to start seeking professional help and start taking my medication. I was turning into a non-funny version of Frank the Tank.

Over the next few years I went through every medication known to man. I was starting to lose faith. I started missing work and isolating myself from my friends and family more and more. I was embarrassed about my social anxiety and depression. I started to feel like I would never get better when I stumbled upon a flyer at the VA hospital about a hockey program for disabled veterans. I was sick of drinking every night and I was desperate for a change. Without giving myself time to talk myself out of it, I went to a practice and I have been hooked ever since.

The program started with about 6 skaters and a goalie. We would meet up every week and play hockey for a couple of hours. The program was just what I needed. Not only did hockey help relieve my negative stress, it also provided me with the camaraderie I missed so much from the military. We all had similar issues and we didn’t judge each other. Soon the program began to grow. Within a year we had enough disabled veterans to fill three teams. We would go play other cities veteran teams and it soon felt like a big military family. I still had severe social anxiety & depression but when I would walk into the rink that would melt away.

Unfortunately, I would slip back into my habits whenever we would have a break between games or practice. I was now seeing my doctor 1-2 times a week and taking my medication as prescribed. I again started to feel frustrated. I was happy that I found joy in hockey, but I couldn’t play 24-7. I was still a mess. One day I was walking out of my doctor’s office when I saw a teammate from the hockey team. I was mortified. I began to panic, I had to come up with a lie as to why I was leaving the mental health clinic. I think I told him I was getting a penile reduction just to spare myself the humiliation of him knowing I was sick.

Believe it or not, he didn’t buy it. He was also there for help and for the first time in my life I told someone (besides a doctor) about my mental health struggles. It was a freeing experience. Not only to get it off my chest, but to know I wasn’t alone. He told me about how going to group therapy had helped him and convinced me to give it a try. In fairness, my doctor was already on my case about starting CBT & DBT groups but this was the push I needed. He even went to the first couple of groups with me to make sure I went.

I went to group therapy for two years before I moved. I really enjoyed it. It taught me a lot of important lessons I carry with me today. I recently moved to Florida and we do not have the same hockey program down here. I had a lot of idle time in my hands, and more importantly, a lot of idle time in my mind. I started to slip into a deep depression and I shut myself out to the rest of the world. I once again needed help. I took myself into the hospital and started getting therapy.

I have been in Florida for over two years now. I play golf with a veterans group every Friday and I volunteer with the sled hockey team on weekends. I still have severe depression and social anxiety but I am grateful have found some healthy hobbies to keep me on the road to recovery. My medication may always be a work in progress but with sports therapy, counseling, and meeting regularly with my psychiatrist, I am confident I have to tools to keep me from losing my battle with mental health.


About the Author: Joe Guz

Joe Guz is a military veteran who writes a humorous blog about living life with anxiety and depression at Guz Gets a Buzz

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10 Comments

Teri

This is a wonderful story. I’m so happy for you Joe, that you were able to use sports to release all of those overwhelming emotions, thoughts, that so many of us who suffer from depression and anxiety feel. I to suffer from severe depression, anxiety, ptsd and other issues. I know how hard it is to live with the daily struggles. Like you I work hard with my therapist and psychiatrist to not allow my mental health take over my life. I have been searching for an art therapy group or individual art therapy, art helps me the way sports helps you. I haven’t had much luck finding anything though, so I do art on my own but it isn’t the same. Thank you for your service to our country and I am so sorry for trauma you endured. Thank you for sharing your story and God bless.

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SharonH

I find writing to be of tremendous help. Am also dealing with PTSD from a traumatic event in my life. Even writing things that maybe nobody will ever read doesn’t matter-it just helps to see thoughts and feelings on paper. We each must find the best way as individuals.

It is a hard road we travel.

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Jill Coster

Thanks for this courageous article. I commend you for all the personal work you have done. My son is ex- military – served in Afghanistan – we have talked about his fear of never getting the adrenaline high he experienced every day in his field operatives in a “regular” job. He solved that by patiently applying and waiting for the Police Force job he wanted – he once again serves the public, has found a wonderful working family and isn’t sitting behind a desk. It was a tough 4 years for him – and his family watching – waiting for him to be called. Thanks again.

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Rosie

Wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it Joe, you have no idea how many you are helping with your example. Thank you for your service in the military.
A life of service all around!

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Felisa

Thank you Joe for sharing your story. I am happy to know that you are feeling better, and you have supportive groups around you. You have a good doctor too. Stay encouraged on your journey. You are not alone ❤

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Sylvia

This is such an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing. I have my own struggles with anxiety and depression and am currently struggling to find an outlet for it like you found with hockey. I openly share my struggles, but stories like yours give me hope for my own story. Thank you again !

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Michele

Way to go, Joe! Thank you for sharing your helpful and inspirational story. I know well the hard work that goes into battling alcoholism, depression, and anxiety.

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Frank Ferguson

Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, as they say. I wasn’t in the military, but I was in a war zone of a family upbringing. Yelling, screaming, beatings (they were called ‘spankings’ in those days). Anyway, severe depression and severe anxiety really crippled me for a long time until I got professional help and meds. The older I get, the easier these issues have become for me. So, cheers and thanks for sharing.

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Melanie

Thank you so much for sharing your long road of depression. So many people today still don’t realize depression IS a disease & very serious & all to consuming!! I’ve been going through major depression, dysthymia & PTSD for 18 yrs now. Just began 2 new antidepressants. My 19th & 20th new ones. It’s an up hill battle but we must be strong & fight our demons. Therapy, group, activities r a help but it takes alot to push my self to get there but I continue to for my children & myself. I want to be myself again someday before all this happened to me. Good luck & God Bless you Joe. Stay strong & continue what has been working for you. Peace & Blessings~

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