Sometimes I still feel like I’m stuck in the “conversion” from the life of a varsity athlete to the life of a normal university student. Maybe that’s because my CIS career didn’t play out quite as long as I thought it would, due to injury, or maybe it’s because mentally, I still picture myself as a varsity athlete.
But here I am, in my fourth year of university, and I feel like I’m lost, like I’m starting all over again. This is my first year being at Carleton and not playing with the varsity hockey team and it is so hard to get used to. Hockey was such a great source of stress relief for me, in so many different ways. Having that dedicated block of time everyday where I got to see my friends and sweat out all my stress was a daily comfort for me. It had become a part of my daily routine for years and now here I am trying to make an entirely new routine.
The transition from the life of a varsity athlete to that of a normal university student has been difficult. I’ve had to find other ways to get that same level of stress relief on a daily basis, and at first, that was so hard. The first few months without hockey were the hardest. My emotions were constantly up and down, I would often get angry and worked up, and I dealt with depression-like symptoms. At the time, I thought this was due to my recent lifestyle change, as I wasn’t staying as physically active as I had been while playing hockey. I couldn’t find the right balance and I was getting increasingly frustrated with myself. My energy levels were constantly low, I had very little motivation to do school work and my emotions were running wild beyond my control.
After about four months of this confusing time, I finally realized that maybe this wasn’t my fault. I had assumed that my feelings of depression and laziness were due to the lifestyle changes I had made. But something in the back of my head began to tell me that this wasn’t right and that there was more going on with my body than just that. So, I went to the doctor.
Initially, the doctor said that my depression-like symptoms could be my past concussion problems making a reappearance. But to me, it felt like something different, so I pressed for the doctor to run a couple tests. The next week, I finally got the answers I was looking for.
Little did I know that all of these symptoms I had been experiencing for months were due to a severe deficiency of vitamin B12, the vitamin that produces your red blood cells. According to the doctor, this diagnosis was to blame for the depression-like symptoms, the lack of energy and the mood swings. As I continued working with my doctor to sort out the best method of fixing my condition, we realized that the type of deficiency I have is called pernicious anemia, meaning that no matter how much B12 I orally ingest, my body cannot properly process the vitamin. Normally, humans get their B12 from meats and vegetables, which I was eating plenty of, but little did I know that my body wasn’t getting the full nutritional value from these foods. Due to this, it took a few months for us to experiment with a few options figure out what was the best treatment for my condition.
Although having a vitamin deficiency may not sound like much, if left untreated, it can do some pretty crazy damage to your heart and your nervous system. When my B12 numbers were at their lowest, I was having heart burn like I have never even imagined possible, and up until this point, I had never even once had heartburn before. There were a few times when I wondered if I was experiencing the beginnings of a heart attack. Since then, I have been getting monthly B12 injections with regular blood tests to check on my levels and I have been feeling so much better. Due to the severity of my vitamin deficiency and the fact that it is a hereditary condition, I will likely be on the injections for life, or at least for many years to come. Although my B12 levels are still not quite as high as the average person, it has made a huge difference in my energy levels and my mood.
Finding out that there was a medical reason for why I was feeling so terrible was the biggest relief imaginable. I thought I had gone into a full-swing depression and I was telling myself that it was due to the fact that I wasn’t playing hockey anymore. As it turns out, my doctor thinks that my B12 condition took a turn for the worse right around the time that I stopped playing hockey – one thing that has no connection with the other, the timing was just a fluke.
Not only did I physically feel better once I had this condition under control, but my whole mood took a turn for the better. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and I stopped blaming myself for feeling lazy and useless. I began to do more in my life and take on more responsibilities. I finally felt like I had the energy to fill the void that hockey left in my life.
Since then, I have led a busy and fulfilling life. I joined a soccer team for the summer and started a new job. I’ve started kickboxing classes and am now training for a half marathon, all while taking a full course load at school and working two part time jobs. I’ve even joined a senior women’s hockey team and am back on the ice once a week. Thinking back to six months ago, there’s no way I could have possibly done this many things at one time.
I miss stepping on the ice every day, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that this time in my life is over. I’m healthy, I’m happy and I’m proud of the person that I’ve become since I stopped playing hockey.
For anyone else who finds themselves feeling lost after they finish playing their sport: don’t expect for everything to fall into place right away. Finding a new routine that works for you and keeps you emotionally and physically fulfilled like your sport did isn’t an easy thing. But eventually, things will fall into place and you will find a way to move into the next phase of your life with a smile on your face.
If you or someone you know has a similar story and is in need of help, click here for services in the area.