Sean was a professional footballer whose mental health took a tumble when he took a step back from the game full time. After losing his dad, it all got too much.
Here’s his story.
I often thought that my mental health started deteriorating after I made the decision to leave full-time football and play semi-professional to concentrate on my ‘life after football’. But on reflection, I think it began years ago, in 2012.
Football was tough, I loved it, but the later stages of my career were difficult.
As many do, I went through a period when I was constantly getting injured. This meant a lot of recovery time, a lot of pressure on myself to regain my fitness, all whilst younger guys would be joining the squad and continually pushed me to my limits. When I found out my wife was expecting our little baby, finances became more important than ever before and the decision to go semi-professional was unavoidable. I had to find a new career.
This is when my mental health really started to decline.
I made the decision to join University and study sports coaching. Now a father, I was in university 4 days a week, whilst training 2 nights, studying, and playing every Saturday. My body and mind weren’t used to this new routine – I was all over the place and I struggled at times to manage everything.
Things got a little bit brighter three years later, when I graduated with a BSc in Sports Coaching. I now had a new job, but I still had to juggle work, part-time football, and my young family. Then, the impact of Covid-19 took its toll.
In late 2020, I lost my dad.
The pain of losing my dad was something I had never felt before. My mental health was at its worst, and it didn’t get easier. My birthday, Father’s Day, his birthday and finally his anniversary took me to a place I had never been before, and I needed help.
“my dads anniversary took me to a place I had never been before, and I needed help”
Thankfully, a friend of mine put me in touch with Back Onside and I found a safe place where I could begin the process of opening up about my grief. After speaking with Back Onside’s professional counsellor, it became obvious that I needed to make personal life changes for myself, and my family.
With the support of family, friends and Back Onside, I changed my life for the better. I still have days, like everyone, when I struggle to deal with grief, but I now understand how to manage it and I’m beyond grateful that I am here with the people I have in my life.
The best advice I ever received was, would you go to a physio about an injury? My reply was yes of course. I was then asked, so why wouldn’t you speak to somebody about how you are feeling? It’s like an injury that needs to be treated by communicating which nobody should be shy or embarrassed about in my opinion.
So please, if you’re reading this, remember to open up to anyone that you feel comfortable speaking to. If you’re not sure who that is, I promise you Back Onside will be that person when you need it.
I also want to add that every single counselling session, crisis line message, support mechanism that Back Onside offer is funded entirely by donations from people like you. Back Onside receives no government support. So please, if you can, donate here – you might just save somebody’s life.