Never Give Up: One Player’s Personal Battle with Mental Illness (Part 1)

Here we share the very real and painfully honest experiences of Ruth Fox (in two parts and then with a Q&A about how the game fits into her life) who loves playing football, loves her family and friends, and loves life but has had more than one frightening run in with depression, firstly at 14, and then again a couple of years later.

This is her story & she is telling it (and does so brilliantly) so that she might help someone else in need…

Never give up

I’m not famous and most probably never will be. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have my own story to tell. At 18 years old it’s not like I have learnt everything or indeed that I know who I am or what I intend to do with my life for the next 50 years. But I have experiences that not everyone has been through, experiences that I now feel ready to share, not because I want attention or recognition, but because I want to help people. If my story can touch just one person out there then my job is done. I want to make an impact on someone, and I truly hope that person is you.

First hit 2013

As a naïve fourteen year old, I had never really come across mental illness before. I thought, like most people, that depression was an emotion, much like sadness and that anything ‘mental’ was to do with mad people locked up in cells. It was only when I had uncontrollable urges to cry during October half term of 2013 that I felt something was wrong. I had experienced the trauma of my sister going to university without noticing the huge gap in my life it would lead. Sport was my subconscious way of dealing with those kind of stresses. But one Saturday in early October during a football match against Leighton Park Rangers, I jumped to head the ball, and was pushed from behind which left me with mild whiplash, and a pulled ligament in my upper back. I was off sport for a few weeks, and during that time my mental health deteriorated. I also lost a lot of weight. When my injury had recovered I really struggled to enjoy anything in my life, even the sport that I loved so much. My dad decided to ring the GP and book an emergency appointment. I could barely speak, and had lost any self-belief or confidence I had.

“You’re not a happy bunny, are you?” I remember Dr Kirkham saying to me. He immediately prescribed fluoxetine, despite the side effects of suicidal thoughts most prominent in under eighteens. The next three weeks, were the most difficult I had ever had to endure. I legally had to be in school, but often went home straight away. I kept myself very much to myself and refused to let people know I was struggling. I was still very confused about what it was I was going through, why I couldn’t enjoy anything, and how a medication could help something in my head. Luckily for me, medication did work, and by the February of 2014 I was becoming the girl I once was, with a new-found strength in my own abilities and a confidence that I’d never had before. I still cringed a bit inside when someone said they were ‘depressed’ when really they meant sad. My knowledge of mental health, how to maintain it, how to spot symptoms in others and myself, the treatment (or lack of), was heightened by my suffering, and I see that as a positive. However, the fact that someone has to go through depression or something similar to learn about it, is not how it should be. If more people spoke out, that would most definitely not be the case.

Relapse 2016

I thought everything was normal that overcast Thursday in early December. The morning brought about its usual commodities. Six thirty AM saw my human alarm clock knock gently on my door, cradling a steaming cup of tea.

“Have a lovely day, Ruth, see you tonight.” She said the same words everyday, whisked away in her parting as my mum rushed back downstairs to whip up a caesar salad for lunch, down her own brew, and gobble some toast as she dried her hair. This was all I saw of my mother these days, as a new job in London meant twelve hour days left her fatigued and tired much of the time. I missed mum waving goodbye to me in the mornings, I missed mum picking me up on a Monday evening after hockey training.

It was only once I had heard the gentle roar of the car engine, and the crunch as it crept down the drive that I stretched and got up. I padded into the bathroom, nodding to my dad in passing on the landing, mumbling something inaudible. I stepped into the shower, and the either scalding hot or icy cold water flowed over my body. For a few moments I felt completely at peace with myself and my surroundings and fully relaxed. That was until I remembered how much I had to get done that day, how many tests I had, how late I’d get in after training….that now probably wasn’t the best time for procrastination and I really needed to get a move on if I were to catch the seven thirty bus. Feeling fresh and smelly fruity, I stepped onto the cold tiles and wrapped a fluffy towel around my body and another over my drippy hair.  I always took this opportunity as I brushed my teeth to look in the mirror at the girl staring back at me. It was the same girl that stared back at me yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, but today something felt different. I searched for something, anything physical that made me different but there was nothing. Then I saw it; it was my eyes. Deep blue, they reminded me of the infinite oceans. Despite displaying an element of beauty, there was something more distant and malevolent hiding within. Dark black orbits surrounded them from sleepless nights, and there was crystal tear in the corner. Suddenly all the pain I had been hiding for months and months stabbed me in the heart. I felt worthless, useless and alone for the first time in my life.


Follow Ruth on Twitter: @FoxInTheBox05

You may also remember we shared Claire Williams’ thoughts and experiences in the past. Here’s the link if you would like to read it:

Depression in Football

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1 Comment

  1. Dear Ruth

    I have just read your accounts of your story with all the rawness and sincerity fro your heart

    I have admired your courage over the recent years and congratulate you on your amazing fortitude in the face of the seemingly inclinable mountains, may you continue to admire the view from the top

    Well done, Ruth, in everything you have achieved

    With Love


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