My Journey Through Roller Derby and Mental Health

Photo by John Kilhoffer

Photo by John Kilhoffer

I guess I should preface this by saying that I struggle with anxiety, depression, and had a long battle with an eating disorder. In my 20's, I started seeking help (on a regular basis) and eating normally but gained a lot of weight because I messed up my metabolism. My body’s health started turning around but my self-esteem was not there at all.

My therapist had always told me that exercise is one great way of handling the depression and anxiety I was feeling while recovering. But I absolutely hate running and going to the gym just caused me more anxiety. It was around that time that I came across roller derby leagues on social media and I kept thinking that maybe that was something I could do.

I used my birthday money one year to purchase a cheap pair of white Reidell skates. I took my skates to a park a couple blocks from my apartment and skated around the cement concrete rink, falling a million times on my butt. That didn’t stop me from attending the Outfit’s bootcamp and trying out afterward.

During my first season, I quickly found out that I was surrounded by a group of the most supportive and encouraging people I’ve met. I started taking care of myself better. Eating Taco Bell made me feel happy and not extremely guilty. I didn’t realize it at first, but I stopped caring about how my stomach looked or how big my thighs were (I even just recently bought a crop top version of our jersey which is something I never thought I would wear). I was getting stronger every day and that’s what really made me feel good.

This isn’t to say that I never struggle with mental health issues, because my bad days are still there. But, now as I go through my third season with the Outfit, I can definitely say I’m in a much better place than I was only a few years ago.

#718 Bettie Slay