One of the things I used to do for self-care was play hockey. I had to stop playing in 2007 because of a knee injury — doctor’s orders. It wasn’t totally serious, but it was bad. I was a goaltender, and it was actually the second injury in the same location. The first time occurred in 2000. I blew it off, hoping the pain would go away, which it did. But not the second time. Even now, my knee sometimes bothers me, and it can be painful climbing stairs.
When I first learned to play hockey in 1995 — including learning how to skate — I was a forward, playing right wing. It was the first women’s hockey club in the area, and we didn’t play games, except for a few scrimmages with teams composed of 14-yo’s. We always lost, but it was fun.
I took a break in 1996, when I went back to college, but picked it up again in ’99 because the grad school I went to had a women’s club team. I played right wing during first quarter, and was pretty good. I scored the season’s first goal! After winter break, our goaltender, who had never played in net before, decided she no longer wanted to. My impulse control left (and occasionally still leaves) something to be desired, so I volunteered.
Some might think that being a goalie would cause more anxiety than skating up, and yes, I experienced game day jitters. But once I was on the ice, I focused on one thing: the puck. It helped keep me in the present moment.
Our team wasn’t good, but we had a lot of fun. We traveled to different schools, sometimes out of state, for games. Even though I was new to goaltending and was awful at it, I had a great time in net. Most important was the social aspect, both on and off the ice (road trips!). I still remain friends with some of my teammates. Being part of a team boosted my self-confidence, and I felt good about myself.
After graduation and moving back to Chicago, I joined the same team I learned the sport with all those years ago, and played for a couple of years. (This was a few years after the Breakdown.) My game had improved, but I wasn’t great, especially since I was never formally taught by a goalie coach. During this time, I took a few goaltending workshops, which helped, but not much! Still, the social aspect aided my recovery: I was liked, and again, my self-confidence, well . . . existed. Then I hurt my knee.
A few years later, I decided to continue playing, but as a forward, my original position. The blades on goalie skates are different from “regular” hockey skates, so I sort of had to relearn how to skate. While doing this (about 7 years ago?), I sprained my ankle really badly. It was supposed to take only 6 months to heal, but it took much longer. I even needed cortisone shots.
I developed anxiety about skating, and once the ankle finally healed, I was afraid to skate, which I didn’t do for years. Despite this, about 2 years ago, I decided to try once again and took private lessons with a hockey coach. I was still anxious about skating, but not as much because I was wearing hockey equipment, which I knew would protect me if I fell.
Then I signed up for my coach’s week-long women’s all-levels hockey clinic before the season began. I never went because of anxiety — not of skating, but of the other people that would be there: would I know any of them? Would they laugh at me? I knew that last part was completely irrational, because most of the women hockey players I’ve met were always kind and helpful. Still, anxiety won.
I did go to evaluation night for a team a few weeks later, but fell and hit the back of my head on the ice. I got a mild concussion, despite wearing a helmet. I decided not to play, and have been afraid to put on skates ever since.
I so desperately want to play again. Sometimes I even dream about hockey in my sleep! But I’ve lost my confidence. Even if it isn’t in the realm of hockey, I’d like to regain the positive feeling of self-worth. This is what I’m working on these days.
Photos provided by author