Belfast Giants fan Chris Lovell has written this incredibly powerful, personal and uplifting article about his struggles with mental health and how hockey in Belfast gives him a safe space where he feels he can escape from the rigours of life for a while.
The article has also been published on the Kingdom of the Giants website as Chris wants his account to have as far a reach as possible throughout the hockey community and beyond.
You can follow Chris on Twitter – @chrisgllovell
Many of you reading this may know me either directly or even as the mouthy one on Twitter! Some may not know me, either way who I am is not overly important however everyone has a story and I’d like to share mine with you all. I’m 31 years of age, a Giants supporter and I, like many others, suffer from depression.
I was diagnosed at the age of 19 and immediately prescribed Antidepressants which I take to this day, the cause is uncertain nor does it matter. I suffered badly for a while and hid myself at home venturing out to work and not much else. I eventually admitted what was wrong to my friends and family and my parents being older didn’t understand and thought it was attention seeking, my friends on the other hand immediately offered support and wrapped themselves round me like cotton wool.
My friend Lewis rang me one day as he had a spare ticket to a Giants game and wouldn’t take no as an answer, so I headed to the Odyssey as it was then. The result of that evening was a Giants tattoo on my arm and me attending as many games as my work schedule allowed.
There was something different about this team, the arena and especially the fans. It wasn’t just unconnected people watching a local team, it was somewhere people came together and their religious background, sexuality or political allegiances didn’t matter. Nothing says this better than the Giants motto.
I quickly became immersed within the Giants fanbase and have met some of the best humans. The SSE Arena as it is now is my safe zone, it’s the place I can go and be myself, the outside world doesn’t matter. The hockey family is an incredible thing and often overlooked.
Having somewhere to go and feel safe and having so many people to talk to has helped my battle my depression, I’ve not beaten it nor can I say I ever will BUT giving up is simply not an option for me and shouldn’t be an option for anyone.
Recently I have been struggling to get out of bed and face the day, I tweeted this out as a way to vent. The response I got has my eyes filling with tears. I received messages and tweets from not only the Giants fanbase but also right round the league, players, ex-players and clubs officials.
You may be wondering why I have written this slightly sombre article?
The reason is this, it is firstly to thank every single person who has ever spoken to me at a game or asked how I am, it means more than you realise. Whether it’s you saying hello, Mike giving me a bear hug at the OSC desk or even just a pat on the back.
Secondly, please be kind to each other and continue to be the fanbase I fell in love with, the club is nothing without you. Lastly and most importantly, never be afraid to admit your differences and your struggles. There are so many amazing people who will talk and advise or even just listen.
Never ever suffer in silence, you are too important. Admitting you need help does not show a jot of weakness, it shows you’re incredibly strong, the stigma around this needs broken and that starts with you and me. We need to be the torchbearers for change.
If anyone ever needs anyone to speak to I know the AVFTB guys, TCW guys and any fan you know will happily speak to you via social media, email or whatever method you prefer but please don’t fall silent and suffer alone, you are never alone not matter how alone you feel.
The season is upon us so lets all rally together, help the team and help each other. Hockey isn’t just a sport here in Belfast it’s the coming together of a family each year in celebration of what not only makes us the same but also what makes us different.
So let’s pull together and help the team, support and help each other and don’t be afraid to ask for help if we need it.
Thank you for reading my story and understanding. I have done this in the hope others who are suffering can feel the strength to keep fighting and know you’re never alone. If we can help save and help even 1 person then that is enough.
If you want to speak to me or ask advice or how I battle every day and cope feel free to give me a shout, I’m always checking my social media and will offer an outside option or advise without judging.
The road forward is always there, even if we can’t see it.