On World Mental Health Day, Anna Say writes about per personal tale of ill health, and how NCFC has helped her immensely.....
Why are you so obsessed with football?
A question that I find myself confronted with daily.
It’s something I have struggled to answer because to do that would be to confront a part of me that I have been ashamed of for a long time.
But I have now realised the answer. It is because I have never in my life felt more than when I am watching, listening to, or simply just talking about football, and when you suffer from mental health issues feeling is something that you don’t take for granted.
I have been a fan of Norwich for as long as I can remember, I was brought up a supporter and never looked back. In that time I have faced a lot of setbacks, there’s been ups, downs, twists and turns but it didn’t matter how far I strayed or how lost I got because there was always one constant in my life. That was Norwich City, and I think I have got to a point where it always will be.
The other thing that has become a constant in my life is my mental illness. It’s unfortunate but it's there and as much as I have in the past wanted to run away and bury my head in the sand I soon realised that it wasn’t something that was just going to go away by itself. I needed to find something to ease it I needed a place that I could turn to no matter what
This is where Norwich City Football Club comes in.
My home from home.
It wasn’t until recently when I really sat down to think about it that I understood just how much of a positive effect this club has had on my mental health. When I had nothing, it gave me everything. It gave me a focus, it has given me friends, it has given me a home and a purpose.When I think about my mental health, I understand that the thing that affects me every day is my anxiety. I am always anxious and paranoid. I worry about what people think of me, I worry that I’m too much, or that people think I’m weird, I worry that I’m isolating myself again but then I also worry about going out. I worry about not having enough friends and I worry about being alone, and believe it or not, I even worry that I talk about football too much.
The worst thing to come to terms with is that the anxiety however present it is in my life only makes up just a tiny part of the struggle, which is why it is so tiring being inside my head. It’s a constant battle that always feels like I am one tiny setback away from losing.
But then a match day comes around and I find myself at Carrow Road, where for just a couple of hours all is forgotten. I go and sell the programmes and I feel a sense of pride because I get to work for the club, I get to be a tiny cog in the machine. I love talking to people and making them smile and I will do all I can to help them get hyped for the match, I see my regulars and they are happy to see me, which is such a wonderful feeling.
Then I go inside walking up the steps into the view that is so comfortingly familiar and sit next to a stranger where I immediately start to talk about the match, without fear of being ridiculed because we are both there for the same reason. It is never just about the person who is sat next to me, I am there with 27,000 other people and I always think to myself how it is impossible for me to feel lonely when I am surrounded by some many people with a common cause, brought together to support one team. Whether we laugh, shout, cry or cheer, we do it together.
For 90 minutes I gain 27,000 friends.
However, it’s not just being at Carrow Road. It’s become about everything associated with this club. I have recently started going to the social evenings that are put on, I was so nervous at first thinking that I would just end up sitting in a corner alone, but now I have made friends that I absolutely treasure who I now really look forward to seeing. I ring up Radio Norfolk and speak after a match, where I was once terrified of sounding stupid, I now speak with confidence because they encouraged and supported me. I can now write for the fan groups associated with the club and I am proud of doing it because I know they will take me seriously.
This club has built a culture where I feel like I am ok being me and there is nothing else in my life that truly gives me that kind of freedom. I am proud that we look after each other and that fans and ex-players alike can speak out when things aren’t ok, or when things are hard knowing that the support will be there.
I can honestly say that I do not know where I would be without this club and everyone associated with it, because at the end of the day I know that if I’m feeling lonely I can pick up the phone and speak to a family member about the most recent game. If I am feeling sad, I can go to YouTube and watch highlights from old matches knowing that it never fails to put a smile on my face. If I’m feeling anxious I know that there are people who I have come to know through this club that will always be willing to ease my fears.
Things aren’t perfect and I know that there are so many more ups and downs to come, but I know it will be ok because whatever happens, I know that I can turn to my club for help and I will always be welcomed with open arms. This club is a part of me, it saved me, and I will never stop being grateful for that.
Ups and downs, rain or shine, relegation or promotion, it doesn’t matter anymore, I will always be there because if this club can support me through the worst of my days, I can support them through all of theirs.