Super Bowl 2022: The NFL helped me through my mental health battle

I started interacting more and more with other Green Bay Packers fans (Image: Abbeigh Harris)

There’s nothing like that adrenaline rush for me: turning on the NFL and seeing your team take the field.

It’s a unique feeling that I don’t get watching any other sport.

I started getting into the National Football League (NFL) about three and a half years ago. Until then, it had been a complete mystery to me. I didn’t get it and couldn’t relate to the hype.

As someone who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) after a suicide attempt, I have found comfort in watching sports and the community around them.

BPD is a constant struggle. It’s a condition that means you can’t regulate your emotions properly. It affects your thoughts, feelings and makes it incredibly difficult to have stable relationships with others.

Among other things, it gives you an unclear image of yourself.

After I was diagnosed during the 2018 season, I started dating someone who was a fan of the Green Bay Packers, so Sunday nights turned into soccer.

Initially, I stuck to my original point of view that I didn’t want to see it; but over time my interest was piqued. I started reading to understand the plays, what was going on and why the game was so intermittent.

It became very apparent to me why it was such a popular sport.

One theory is that it is due in part to the fact that fans of both teams intermingle and do not separate from each other during the game.

Many fans grow up with their entire family rooting for a certain team and there are games during big family holidays like Thanksgiving.

But for me, it was all about the action. I started to want to see it.

Being a UK fan means late at night until very early in the morning if you want to watch the games live!

When Covid hit, they gave me a permit from my work in the optics industry.

While most people really struggled with the lockdown, for me it was just a national version of how I already live my life most of the time.

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Leaving the house can be a real struggle on certain days, so not having a choice about it didn’t affect me as much as it did others.

But during the offseason in 2020 when there were no games, I really missed the NFL.

From March to April 2021, my mental health began to spiral back down.

A close family friend had passed away before Christmas, followed by a family member.

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My relationship of almost three years then broke up and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me; Since I couldn’t cope anymore, I was hospitalized again after another suicide attempt, which led to being admitted to a mental health ward for just over a week.

Five months later, at the start of the new NFL season in September 2021, I decided to get more involved in the social media side of the sport to branch out and try to connect with fans both on this side of the pond and in the United States. . .

My dad watched the NFL growing up, but none of my friends in the UK had any real interest in it.

I started to interact more with other Green Bay Packers fans, engaging in conversations about the latest NFL news and topics.

I didn’t expect, as a UK fan, to get so much support talking about my mental health, let alone make a connection with someone who lives in Wisconsin, where the Green Bay Packers are based.

Even more amazing, it hadn’t even crossed my mind that the guy I hooked up with would be flying to London in March to meet me!

We’ve been talking for almost three months now, so when he comes to London it will technically be our first date, which is certainly a different dating experience, so I hope it all works out.

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Forming any kind of connection with someone when you have BPD is scary and difficult, because black and white thinking is part of it.

Sometimes it’s incredibly hard to think logically, and for a long time I couldn’t figure out what healthy friendships and relationships were: You mostly live your life going from one extreme emotion to another.

Seeing things as they really are is like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube with your eyes closed.

I am currently undergoing DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), which is used to help treat personality disorders; it is helping me learn about problematic behavior patterns and teaching me skills to help before they have a chance to take hold properly.

The NFL has given me something to focus on, which has really helped me form a way out of my BPD treatment.

Next season, I even plan to fly to Wisconsin to see my first game in person and meet other fans I’m meeting through NFL Twitter.

This will be a big step, but I am incredibly excited to meet other NFL and Green Bay Packers fans that I have connected with.

The internet can be a dark place at times, as I’ve unfortunately learned through attacks from trolls, usually taking aim at my appearance or saying I’m not mentally ill.

Sport has played a big part in my recovery process (Image: Abbeigh Harris)

Luckily they are definitely in the minority and the support I have received through the friends I have made through the sport has been incredible.

My friends communicate with me through social networks, since most of our conversations are through Twitter or Instagram, it makes it easy for us to stay in touch.

I want to expand my relationships through sport, keeping in touch with even more UK NFL fans, whether they support the Green Bay Packers or any of their rival teams.

I’m also looking forward to attending some of the annual games the NFL hosts in London this year, as they bring together fans from every team across the country.

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Sport has played a very important role in my recovery process; It gives me something to focus on and look forward to.

This season the Packers were unable to play in the Divisional Round to make it to the Super Bowl, however with the team changes many of us are hopeful that the 2022/23 season will be our year to make it.

Regardless of what happens on the field, the positive impact the NFL has had and continues to have on my mental health is priceless and I hope it continues.

Do you have a story you would like to share? Get in touch by email [email protected].

Share your views in the comments below.

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