During those early years of playing professional tennis, I was extremely lonely and became home-sick quickly, but there was always a voice in the back of my head that told me to keep going. I would later in life figure out that those extreme struggles, those close battles that I lost and those grueling days of not having the money to sleep in a normal bed would all contribute to the person I would soon become (post anxiety disorder). Problems really are a sign of life, and we all deal with them on a daily basis, but back then during the first few years of high level tennis I didn’t handle my problems very well, and they definitely affected me on the tennis court.
Repetition Building Our Belief System As An Adult
In tennis, proper repetition is the key to mastering a skill, and the same goes for living a life filled with over worry, constant anxiety and panic attacks. Those early years filled my mind with all the things that weren’t right in my life, like why my parents didn’t work harder so I could afford what all the other tennis players had better tennis racquets, some proper meals during tournaments or maybe a coach. It was a perfect setting to manifest my generalized anxiety disorder that came later in life. “What’s wrong” would constantly follow me on and off the court, and “what’s right” was rarely if ever noticed. Through the repetition of negative thoughts, I drove myself crazy on the tennis court. For example, if I was winning a tennis match by the score of 6-0, was up 5-0 in the second set and was one game away from clinching the win, but then if I would turn around and lose that game, I immediately let myself have it verbally and many times physically throwing my racquet to places racquets shouldn’t go (there are still many of my racquets stuck in trees around the world, I can assure you that). It was no surprise that I brought the same negative beliefs I built up on the court, to my off the court life and the cycle over generalized anxiety that led to my extremely overly sensitized nerves, eventually led to becoming ‘clinically’ depressed.
Finding A Role Model
Jimmy Connors was one of the best to ever play the game and a true inspiration to me growing up. He said “I didn’t lose the tennis match, I just simply ran out of time.” Jimmy believed that tennis was about solving problems and that if he had more time he would have been able to solve the problem he was facing on the tennis court and eventually come out the victor, unlike my father who was too stubborn to accept he was the problem in the family and took no steps to try and solve them, I felt free and was driven to succeed from that moment on, you live you learn.
Can you see a connection between your childhood environment, and how it has played a role in your mental heath as an adult? I’ve found that making this connection can provide many valuable answers that can lead to overcoming stress and anxiety in our lives.
Extra: Notice on my forearm the tattoo, I got this during the height of my anxiety disorder and it reads “All power is from within, and therefore under our own control,” Anxiety can drive you to do some crazy things as you can see, but being reminded of the good in your life as well as knowing you have control over thoughts, emotions and actions helps.